SAGA Must Make Student Voices Heard: Begin with referendum on single-gender residences
Robert Shine, Class of 2013
October 21, 2011
Filed under Quill
Across the country, and indeed the world, the Occupy movement speaks out for many people. Regardless of one’s views on the movement, it cannot be denied that this dissension is giving a voice to many who were voiceless. It is, if nothing else, a reassertion of the right to speak out and challenge the current situation. There is a prophetic tone to the methodology and the mere assertion of dissent, even if the objectives remain disjointed and perhaps disagreeable.
It was with these thoughts that I attended my first SAGA meeting this past Wednesday. Though I have followed the Assembly through this publication, conversations with peers, and the published minutes, it has taken me until my senior year to actually participate.
Unfortunately, the performance of my fellow elected students on Wednesday spoke more to the irrelevancy of the assembly than to its potency to speak and act with students’ interests in mind. Delegates’ comments seeking to rally the Assembly around President Garvey, specifically on the issue of single-sex residence halls, were disheartening.
Such a lethargic attitude towards students plagues the administration, which seemingly subdues the undergraduate opinions that are not in direct accordance with the wishes of Nugent Hall, Dean of Students, Residence Life, etc. It comes as no surprise to me, in my fourth year at CUA, that objections to University policies all too often find nothing but suppression from above.
Yet, I would have hoped that SAGA would act as more than another instrument of the administration and put the voices, concerns, and, yes, oppositions of the student body as theira first priority. Without devolving into the single-sex residence hall debate, it must be noted that those who questioned the policy at Wednesday’s meeting were met with scorn and a flagrant disregard for this essential human right.
Already, far too many students find SAGA’s dealings irrelevant, foolish, or ineffective. While the display from this current membership was lackluster (though credit must be given to those few who maintained decorum), the repeated and fallacious appeals to the authority of President Garvey, the stated and quite incorrect belief that single-sex residence halls are a doctrinal issue (quite laughable really, given the more serious matters of doctrine the Catholic Church deals with), and the inherent sinful sexism pervading many delegates comments should be brushed aside.
This disfunctionality on Wednesday should not indicate SAGA’s potential to become a true voice for the student body.
On the issue of single-sex residence halls, SAGA is presented with a rare opportunity to make a substantial difference. Delegates proposed a student-wide referendum on the issue, which would at least allow the student body to gain a voice in a policy that deeply affects their experiences here at CUA and a voice that was denied to all those whom the policy presently effects.
This is a terrific opportunity for SAGA to take action, regardless of how the vote turns out because it will be fulfilling perhaps its most basic and elemental function: providing students with a voice in the larger University community. I certainly hope the delegates do not miss such an opportunity because any action outside a student body referendum would neglect those very voices who elected them.
With thousands finding voice globally in a struggle to take back the people’s right to democratic principles, we must all be wary of any attempts to hinder our thoughts, ideas, and dissent. While the battles at CUA pale in comparison to the issues being dealt with nationally and internationally, in some small way those in the University at large must take responsibility for this academic community.
Ultimately though, all politics are local and change starts small. We must implore SAGA to give us the referendum! Then we must vote!