Even though I excitedly joined my college’s student government association last semester as the secretary and met some of the most incredible people through it, I do understand that college politics isn’t for everyone. There’s a lot of responsibility on your shoulders if you are an elected representative (or even if you are a none elected commissioner who is still expected to voice the opinions of those under their position), and not everyone wants that sort of responsibility. So, while I could go on and on about why you should try to join student government (I have thousands of reasons), instead I am going to to outline why, above all, you should pay attention to your student government, even if you don’t want to be a member of it, and how to do so.
Why You Should Pay Attention
Student government is the link between the students and the college. While it is almost impossible for an everyday student to get a meeting with the head of the department (especially at a large school), at a lot of schools it is actually required that the head of a department be available to speak with the student representative of that department a certain number of times throughout the semester. Additionally, the student government has direct access to those in charge of other aspects of the college including housing, dining, and probably just about anything you could think of. However, if you aren’t paying attention to what your student government is doing, you have no way of using that link to get your own voice heard through that representative.
Now, I’ll admit it, unfortunately the student government usually doesn’t have enough power to make huge changes in the college by themselves. However, they do have a lot of influence. College administration respects (or at least should, whether they do or not is an issue that changes college to college) the student government as a body representative of those the college was created to help–the student. As a student, you should be aware of where that influence is going and, if it is not going in the direction you believe it should, let the government know either through voting for different representatives or talking to them about what you think would better serve the community as a whole.
Additionally, if you involved in on campus organizations, your funding is most likely decided by the student government. You want to make sure that the government elected is fair, especially when it comes to monetary decision that will affect activities you love.
So, while the student government may not have a lot of power, they do have a lot of influence. It’s important to pay attention to student government because, ultimately, that influence will be affecting the students–you–and should be exercised in a way that is beneficial for the community as a whole.
How to Pay Attention
But who is this elusive student body and how do I find them? Well, your first step to finding them is usually through their website, or the college’s website. Once you have found this, you have access to a lot of great ways to stay informed. (If you can’t find this, ask around to figure out who your representatives are–the student activities center is a great place to start).
Learn About Your Representatives
Finding out who your representatives are is a great first step to paying attention. By knowing who these people are, you know who to contact if you have any questions or concerns. They are your first source of entry into all things student government, so don’t be afraid to send them a quick email–that’s what they are there for.
Read Your Student Newspaper
If you want to get information from a source outside of the student government, check out student newspapers. Sometimes they have someone dedicated to covering the student government.
Attend a Meeting
As a member of my college’s student government, I much prefer getting information directly form the source–meetings themselves. Most meetings are open to the public, meaning that any student can come in and voice their opinions or just sit and listen.
Read the Minutes
If you can’t attend meetings (let’s face it, college students live busy lives), check out the minutes of the meetings, which should be available online. I may be biased towards this option as someone who has done minutes, but they truly are a great source of first hand information about what is happening in student government that anyone has access to, even if you aren’t able to attend meetings.