A new semester looms in the distance, promising a new year and new changes. One big shift on the horizon comes from Rider’s Student Government Association (SGA), with a new senate system rolling to shore.
There are currently 52 senators appointed from different organizations on campus, including the Residence Hall Association (RHA). However, the proposed new bylaws, spearheaded by SGA vice president Ryan Hopely and Senate aide John Modica, aim to democratize that system. Now, 25 of the student senators will have to be elected by other students, as the top leaders like president and vice president are now. There will be a new total of 63 senators, with 15 still appointed by other organizations. These changes were passed when current Senate members approved new bylaws on March 31.
The changes in Senate come after Modica and Hopely learned that other universities on the East Coast have a contrasting system to what was in place here at Rider. Other universities have a more open system of Senate elections, more student involvement promoting greater and reaping more success. That makes it evident that Rider’s old way of appointing senators may be outdated. As a university, our job is to be progressive and to keep growing.
These alterations arrive on the heels of a history of unproductive Senate meetings. By creating a system where people choose to run, rather than being appointed to their position, the Senate will be composed of students who are genuinely ambitious leaders. Working on the Senate should be a serious commitment. Having to compete for the positions may draw out more committed students than some of those who were just tapped on the shoulder. Goodbye, “unproductive” reputation.
“We really came together under this idea that we could be doing so much better,” Hopely said. “And if we hold ourselves to a higher standard, we can ask that the students hold themselves to a higher standard.”
SGA isn’t making these radical changes for fun or for looks — they’re making them to spark more involvement. It is truly the students who wield the power to bolster student participation. If you want to dive headfirst into making a difference or simply wish to dip your toe into student politics, these new Senate positions serve as excellent leadership opportunities. In the “real world,” it’s worthless to sit back and watch others chase opportunities; why is this any different? If you want your voice to be heard, don’t be silent — decide to speak up, and apply to campaign by 5 p.m. on April 6.
If you’re more content being soft-spoken, don’t think these changes have nothing to do with you. Now, each class will have to vote for the five senators from its year. These senators, as well as all members of SGA Executive Board, work closely with Dean Campbell and other campus organizations to better the university. Actions and legislation approved by an elected Senate is, in every shape and form, truly the voice of the student body, and hold the most power to enact change. Wouldn’t it be great if we had the power to decide who spoke for us? Oh, wait, we do. We each have the power to walk into the booths on April 20 and choose who we feel best represents us. We waste that gift of democracy by making the ignorant decision that it doesn’t matter. Every vote matters, so why not make sure that yours is recognized?
The changes in the Senate can only be effective if we as Rider students actively decide to be more involved. This is our university, our student government and our time spent on this campus. We should be trying to make the most of it, either by campaigning or voting.
“When the student body is involved and when the student body is pushing the university, we are able to promote better things on this campus,” Modica said. “Rider’s reputation grows. Our university becomes stronger. And when the reputation of this university becomes stronger, all of our futures become stronger.”
Sophomore journalism major
Printed in the 04/01/15 issue.