Typically, if someone has an issue on campus, they are encouraged to reach out to a representative of the Student Association to advocate on their behalf. But the Student Association functions less as a student advocacy organization and more as one that plays pretend politics. Each member, in their own way, touts their success in helping students live better lives on campus while doing more to help themselves and their egos rather than solving actual issues.
Omar van Reenen, SA director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, is a major culprit of this notion and is creating a political atmosphere in SA that inhibits its members from solving legitimate issues. van Reenen recently proposed a resolution in the SA senate with the intention of removing plastic cups from the dining halls on campus. The resolution was over four pages long and included facts and statistics about campus-wide plastic cup usage. At first, this may seem like a common-sense, environmentally friendly goal to set for the senate, but every step taken in passing this legislation should concern students.
A minor, but important detail to start: The resolution was headed with a ridiculous title, “Plastic Action for Commitment to Sustainability Affirmation,” created only to have a shortened acronym associated with it. PACSA was drafted to be wordy and confusing and had sketchy statistics to support the resolution’s case. This was all done, presumably, to mask the fact that there had actually been little planning or research put into the legislation besides what was done for its appearance.
The resolution as written would not have any direct or immediate change on campus. A resolution in the SA senate is only a statement made on behalf of the student body in support or opposition of an idea. van Reenen was offering students, directly or otherwise, empty promises that if they had sponsored this resolution, it would lead to an immediate change for the better. He was using this resolution as an opportunity to stretch his political muscle by traveling around campus, giving grandiose speeches that only made students believe the Student Association was attempting to solve a real environmental issue on campus.
The fact of the matter was, this was not a legitimate or pressing issue at all. As previously mentioned, the facts of the resolution were not researched outside of what would make the paper itself look pretty. The plastic cups had always been in the dining halls for employees to use. After having excess cups, the dining halls decided to leave them out for regular students to use.
This resolution was so controversial in the senate that it had been tabled twice after hours of meaningless discussion. For two weeks, this legislation was tolled over until the senate gave up and decided to forget about its existence. This meant that for several weeks, the main issue in the student senate was not an issue at all, it was just arguing over whether to support the idea of removing plastic cups from the dining hall, regardless of whether it would actually happen in the first place. The time in these meetings could have been spent being more productive and actually discovering and solving issues for students that attend this school.
van Reenen is only one of many culprits, and PACSA is one of many examples. The grandstanding for which SA representatives are notorious is only getting worse. The issues being tackled in the organization are becoming arbitrary and are only being discussed for the sake of playing politics.
The organization is doing a massive disservice to students on this campus that actually need advocacy. They are accomplishing the opposite of what they wish to accomplish, and the only people they are harming are those who need them.
Photo by: Kassadee Paulo | The Oswegonian