A challenge to Senate: make an open invitation

Tim Ireland
SVA – Legislative Liaison 

While watching an episode of “The West Wing”, the episode titled “The Crackpots and These Women”, in which one of the main characters, Leo McGarry (played by John Spencer), explains a legend that Andrew Jackson had this big block of cheese and he would invite the people to come to the White House, enjoy the cheese and talk to leadership about their concerns, I struck on an idea: MCTC’s Student Leadership should throw open the doors and hold a day where they can sit down with any student or groups of students and listen to their ideas. It just might be worth it.

I’ve been on this campus as a student for a while now, almost 4 years to be exact. I’ve held a few positions with the Student Veterans of America – MCTC Chapter (SVA-MCTC), Vice President, President and most recently Legislative Liaison. I’ve been a fixture at many Student Senate meetings, helped to bring an initiative to MCTC and helped to draft pieces of the platform document (the statement of what the Student Senate supports) that we currently use.

In case you haven’t heard, I had some harsh words for the executive board at the Sept. 30 general assembly meeting. At the time, I thought that it was the right thing to do. Now, however, I’m not so sure. While my frustrations at a broken system where there, was it just the frustrations of an entire school at the present executive board, or was it the seeds of an even deeper problem? Does Student Senate “get us”, or is there a disconnect between student leadership and the common student?

There is a gap between the students and senate. It is a gap of age. While the average age of students is in their 30’s (28 to be exact), the average in the senate is 20’s. In my opinion This makes it hard for those charged with shaping and guiding the vision of the student body to properly represent everyone. I remember that my concerns, goals, hopes and dreams were very different between 23 and 33. Life, experiences and events changed all of these things for me. They change things for everyone alive, ever. I think that there is an inequality in the Senate. I cannot fault the Executive Board or Senate for this though. The true blame lies with perceptions and inaction on the part of the students themselves.

Don’t misunderstand me, the Executive Board under the Guidance of President Ellis has done some great things for Senate, such as directing clubs into two committees, Advocacy and Diversity, has changed the amount of transparency in the Senate, has made the Documents Committee a permanent committee charged with ensuring impartial application of Student Senate rules, and other noble ideas. I think that we can and must do better as a Senate to properly represent the people.

As a two year institution, we tend to think of MCTC as a compartmentalized part of our lives, separate from other parts of our lives. It shouldn’t be though. Look at the name of the school: Minneapolis Community & Technical College. We are a community and it is incumbent upon everyone to participate in the community. Senate can’t do our jobs, nor can we properly represent students without feedback. We want to do the right thing, but we can only do so much in a vacuum. Your job is to speak up and be heard. Talk to your Club Representative or a senator you know. Get involved in Student Senate.

I am calling on President Ellis and the Executive Board to do something a bit out of the ordinary. If you have an idea, no matter how crazy or absurd, you bring it to the attention of the Student Leadership and they take it back to the Executive Board. I held a time at the end of SVA meetings for this purpose and I would happily spend a day with the Student Senate Executive Board doing this.

So think about this the next time you’re in the Helland Center. Talk to Senate, tell them your ideas and maybe help to change the school.

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