The Gentleman’s Role: An Insider’s Defense of Student Government at Wabash
Over much of the last century, a half-dozen or so members of each respective class have been called upon to serve the interests of our student body in either the Student Senate or the Senior Council. Yet, as many a passing issue of the Bachelor will attest, the purposes of these organizations are called into question these days. Does student government at Wabash serve any legitimate function in the Twenty-first century, or is it only a waste of time? As a member of the Student Senate since my arrival here at Wabash, some might consider my opinion to be tainted by an inherent bias toward the value of student government. Yet, for those who would take issue with me, I beg you, hear me out: Yes, any Senator or Councilman will concede that the affairs of student government can seem quite tedious and even frivolous at times; and yes, each of us has a bone to pick with certain administrational procedures of this undergraduate bureaucracy. But far from being futile, the student government of Wabash College is actually one of the best educational tools this institution has to offer, providing Wabash men with an excellent hands-on opportunity to not only embody the mission statement of this College, but to also grow more and more into the “Gentlemen and Responsible Citizens” we claim to be.
As the Preamble to the “Constitution of the Student Body of Wabash College” states, the student government is responsible for the regulation of any “…matters delegated by the College to student control,” which today have come to be a myriad of duties. Chief among these, however, are these: first, the dispersion of finances; second, the promotion of campus unity; and third, the representation of the Student Body en masse to the Administration of the College.
Probably the most publicly visible and most often criticized duty of the student government at Wabash is the dispersal of the vast sums of money allocated from the students each semester via the “Activities Fee”, which, over the course of the year generally adds up to around a half-million dollars. These funds are allocated to the more than fifty clubs recognized by the Student Senate through its Audit and Finance Committee, which must prepare the budget spreadsheets, handle all rela-tive affairs with the Business Office of the College, and operate under the policy guidelines set by the Senate as a whole.
While that duty may often prove to be a divisive one (to which this semester’s budget disputes speak), the student government is also charged with doing its utmost to bolster the unity of the student body. Given the oft uneasy state of relations between Greeks and Independents – which is thankfully becoming one of less prevalence these days – maintaining a cordial and interactive student body can prove to be a challenging affair. Nonetheless, this duty is one entrusted to the student government to deal with appropriately.
Though both of these duties are of importance, the most consequential role played by the student government at Wabash is ultimately the representation of and mediation between the “…members of the Student Body, and the faculty and administration of the College.” In the Student Senate, every Wally is represented by at least a half-dozen members – four Class Representatives, one or more Living-Unit Senators, and the Vice-President – and in the Senior Council, each one is also represented by at least two members – the President of the Student Body, and the President of either the Independent Men’s Association or the Inter-Fraternity Council, respectively. These, as well as the other members of each particular governing body, serve as the direct voice of the students to the authorities of the College, and are permitted to have a say in the selection of curricula and other affairs that concern every Wabash man.
So what is so important about these duties, and how do they provide those involved with a more well-rounded educational experience? Well, quite unlike Vegas, what happens in the Senate and the Senior Council does not stay there. The duties delegated to each member of the student government require the development and refinement of many of the practical skills that we men of Wabash will need upon graduation. Indeed, what better training grounds could there be for dealing with potentially divisive financial matters than the AFC of the Student Senate? – or for maintaining the unity of a company, state, or family, than by maintaining unity amongst the members of the Student Body? – or for mediating between parties in a legal dispute than by making sure the Student Body and the Administration of our dear Alma Mater are in harmony? These are most certainly not inane or useless abilities, but rather embody the essence of our mission statement, causing participants to “think critically”, “act responsibly”, “lead effectively”, and “live humanely”.
Therefore, while it remains true enough that the effectiveness of some of the methods of student governance at Wabash by right ought to be a subject of debate, there can be no denying the inherent value of letting the students of this great school learn by experience the skills necessary to life in this increasingly-complex world. Perhaps if every Wabash man took a chance to try his hand in student government, we could all learn more quickly and effectively what it means to be a more gentlemanly and responsible citizen.