By Thomas Chen | Co-Managing Editor
Krach 270 bleeds seamlessly into the main hallway on the second floor of the Leadership Center. Less a room and more an area, the openness of 270 reflected the openness of student leadership one evening in early February. On that night the Purdue Student Government held their first Senate meeting of the month.
In that spacious brightly lit room, I witnessed first-hand how Purdue’s student leaders lead our campus. Relaxed parliamentary procedure moderated a lighthearted debate where comments in favor of motions were occasionally phrased as “I am for this amendment because I’m excited for it!” and questions raised sometimes came as “What are we voting on?”. Yet amid the jokes and banter lay substantive debate.
The primary topics at hand that night were bills to be voted on, ranging from a Student Voices Amendment to Co-Partnerships with organizations on campus. When these bills came to the floor, debate turned serious. Discussions on proper representation of students or allocation of funds persisted through the meeting as one by one bills were passed, and representatives from various student organizations breathed a sigh of relief. One such group, the Purdue Student Sustainability Council, sponsored two bills. The first supported the Purdue Sustainability Summit.
“[The summit] will bring together a lot of different parties at Purdue and try to unite their voices on sustainability” said Jake Hawes, Vice President of the PSSC.
The second bill endorsed the PSSC Sustainability Manifesto, an open letter to the public which according to Jake Hawes “intends to unite the voice of the students… and create conversation regarding sustainability”.
On the manifesto, Mike Young, Student Body President, had this to say: “In terms of the sustainability manifesto, that’s a big step forward for PSG. I’d like to see sustainability become more of a focus for us as an administration this semester.”
As the evening went on, debate shifted to discussion on a Student Voices Amendment that would allow for ad hoc senate seats to be formed for third party organizations such as cultural centers, residence hall associations, or the honors college. Easily the most divisive piece of legislation to come to the floor that night, I listened intently as senate members debated the merits of passing or vetoing the amendment. On one side, some senators feared misrepresenting one party over another by giving one of them a seat, while others argued that not having this vehicle for additional seats was inherently misrepresentative. The proposed system allows for greater flexibility in regards to student representation, and I found myself agreeing with those in favor of the bill. Upon closer examination, seats could only be created by a two-thirds vote in the Senate which is a strong check against rampant creation of seats. Furthermore, such a requirement places additional responsibility upon PSG to wisely and fairly create seats in a balanced manner. The bill passed with four dissenting votes and five abstentions.
As the night came to an end, one final event solidified my opinion of the Student Senate. During debate of one of the final bills, one of the senators was given the floor. Like the fifty or so times before him, I expected the senator to give a brief comment on the topic at hand – he did not. Instead, he yielded the floor to a student standing in the audience. The student nodded and voiced his own opinion to the agreement of the rest of the room. I could not help but feel the democracy of the gesture, however inconsequential it may have been, and I finally came to the conclusion that for all the casual banter and conflicting opinions, our Student Government can be a true vehicle for change – a platform that incites intellectual debate and productive enterprise. As members of the student body, we each have a voice that can be heard. So I encourage everyone to give this platform a try; sit in on a Senate meeting and voice your opinions.
The next Purdue Student Government Senate meeting will be held tomorrow, February 17th at 7 P.M. in Krach 270.
Read more about the Purdue Student Sustainability Council Here: https://boilerlink.purdue.edu/organization/SSC/about
Read the full text of the Student Voices Amendment Here: http://www.purduesg.com/bills/bill-15_55-student-voices-amendment/