A Semester In Review: Tech's Student Senate

The first half of the Texas Tech University Student Government Association’s 48th Session (May 2012 – April 2013) has been a turbulent, but historic one.

A resolution that would have reformed the legislative branch was defeated, senators were impeached and removed for the first time in over 10 years, and members of the other branches of government have openly criticized the student senate for both senators’ lack of progress and neglect of duty.

Alex Alston, the student body president of SGA, commented directly to the student senate on Nov. 8 and summarized the semester for them.

“Y’all have been in office for four months,” he said, raising a hand from the podium to point towards the senate, “and have only produced 10 pieces of legislation. Out of those, six are thank-you letters; two are internal matters with SGA; and only one is to help the students.

“That’s not OK. What are we doing?”

Between the election of this session’s senators, officers, and executives in March and the beginning of the fall 2012 semester, SGA went through what is accepted as normal “growing pains” with the organization: teaching new senators the rules and governing documents, adjusting and acquiring budgets for the session, and reviewing procedures for different aspects of governance.

In September, a complicated piece of legislation came through: Senate Concurrent Resolution 48.01, which would establish a student house of representatives to join the senate and create a “student congress.” This piece was read three times throughout the month before it was voted down and removed from consideration until the next session.

Erika Allen, the chairwoman of the Senate’s Rules and Administration Committee, was responsible for co-writing the house legislation and was disappointed in the bill getting voted down on Oct. 4.

“If [the senators] don’t want to bring more students into SGA through a house,” she said adamantly that night, “if they don’t want to give them the power to do what [the senators] should be doing, then I challenged every single one of them to do their job: to go out and talk to constituents.

“The main reason this resolution was even brought up,” she continued, “was because Senator Davis and I felt that the student senate does not work the way it was meant to, it does not represent students the way it should. We’re not doing it. We’re neglecting any power the students give us by not exercising it.”

Chief Justice Williams, Sept. 27, 2012

On September 27, the first blistering criticism of the semester came to the student senators. Then-Chief Justice Stuart Williams spent nearly 45 minutes openly denouncing the actions of the senate over the past month, both during meetings and outside of the senate room.

“Our program – in reality –“ he explained during his speech, “turns out to be ambiguous, rushed, headstrong, ill-conceived, and poorly executed. That is the reputation that student government unfortunately has.”

Williams has been the most consistent critic of the student senate since then, issuing releases via a new student organization, “Students First Coalition,” speaking in the senate’s open forum time, and appearing on local broadcasting to do so.

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