Student Government describes how it represents student body

Pulse Editor and Pulse Editor

Students can voice their opinions on hot topics at the University through the 42 senators in Undergraduate Student Government. 

Senators voted at the organization’s meeting Monday night to remove Chick-fil-A from a survey as an option for the Falcon’s Nest as well as to deny the chain support if it became an option or was chosen to open in the Falcon’s Nest. 

USG senators represent certain portions of the student body and the “majority” of senators vote on what their constituents want, said Emily Ancinec, USG president.

During the meeting, senators considered having a secret ballot instead of a roll-call vote, so the overall result of the vote would be announced instead of each individual senator’s vote. 

“I don’t feel like they’re [the senators] uncomfortable with the position constituents have,” Ancinec said. “It does take a lot of courage; they feel pressure in the room to go one way.”

It is “general practice” to talk to constituents and vote the way they want, however, senators’ opinion “factors in a little bit,” Ancinec said. 

USG speaker Ben Goldsberry said he thinks the senate does a good job of remaining objective in voting. 

“I think that while the temptation is there, I think my senators vote for their constituents,” Goldsberry said. “I think they’re able to put the views of their constituents above their own.”

Despite the pressure to vote a certain way on heated issues, both Goldsberry and Ancinec said they think USG accurately represents students. 

“A lot of our issues lend themselves to people having the same opinion,” Ancinec said. “But the student body completely agreeing on one subject — that’s not reality.”

Senators often hear the same opinion from sets of students, Ancinec said. 

“It’s very rare that we hear a wide scattering of opinions on one thing,” she said.

Senators hear student opinions through different methods, Ancinec said. They can approach students on campus and begin a conversation, or contact them through Facebook, Twitter or email, and students can contact senators themselves or use lobby time during the organization’s meetings to give their thoughts on a topic. 

“We’ve never had a problem with student voice not being there,” Ancinec said. “We represent our peers, it’s difficult for us to lose touch with the student voice.”

At the same time, a campus of this size can make it difficult to reach everyone, Ancinec said. 

“We need to go out and talk to [students] as much as we can,” she said.

Office hours, which are hours either spent in the USG office (internal hours) or out of it (external hours) doing USG business, are another way for senators to reach out to students, said Derek Sword, USG internal affairs chair and at-large senator. 

Each senator is required to do one external office hour each week; during that time they can talk to constituents or administrators, or work with other senators, Sword said.

Senators are held accountable for office hours by an “honor system,” Sword said, as they mark whether they completed the hour each week by a check mark. Sword said he hopes senators do their office hours and thinks those who don’t are a “definite minority.”  

“I think the people in USG care about being there and do the requirements,” Sword said. 

Senator reports also allow executive officers to check that the senators are talking to their constituents, Goldsberry said.

The reports are turned in monthly by each senator, letting Goldsberry know what each senator has accomplished, what their goals are and how they’re talking to students; it also makes sure they are doing what they should be, Goldsberry said. 

Personally, Ancinec said she relies on senators to reach out to students. 

“I spend a lot of time with administrators,” Ancinec said. “I represent the student body as a whole to the administration.”