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Student Senate votes for good of student body, not ideology

February 10, 2011

The Student Senate is attempting to display a non-partisan viewpoint by casting aside their political beliefs, said College Republican and Senator Michael Leonard.

Prior to 2007, the race for Student Senator positions was a contest between the College Democrats and the College Republicans, said College Democrat and Senator Tyler Halverson.

When Halverson was elected to the Student Senate in the fall of 2007, he said that the groups both campaigned heavily to promote their candidates. 

In the fall of 2007 to the spring of 2008 term, there were approximately eight to 10 College Democrats compared to three to four College Republicans.

“At the time, students elected the senators to follow through on their political views,” said Halverson.

Although past Student Senators have been elected due to their political beliefs, this does not follow the Mission Statement.

“The Student Senate is a non-partisan organization that consists of 25 members.  Individual Senators represent a designated constituency and collectively the Student Senate strives to represent the needs of the entire campus,” according to the Student Senate Mission Statement.

Davida Alperin, professor of political science, said it is healthy if there is less conflict over partisan issues.

“Although they are non-partisan, it doesn’t mean members don’t have a political preference.  Most Democratic and Republican beliefs aren’t going to impact students and Student Senate,” said Alperin.

Student beliefs seem to match that trend, as voting students do not always vote based on a political party promoted by the College Democrats or College Republicans as in the past, but rather based on other reasons.

“I voted because candidates asked me to,” said senior Brian Ahlm.

Nene Eze, a senior, votes for entirely different reasons.

“Different candidates warranted different reasons.  Some of my votes were based on policy, but I believe everything needs to be voted on,” said Eze.

When Student Senate makes a decision, it has to think about their real role on campus.

“It’s not about you, but the students as a whole,” said Leonard.

Leonard said the Student Senate tends to be a mix of people on the left, on the right, and those that are politically apathetic.

However, this is not to say that the students on Student Senate are not motivated by other causes.

“This year there isn’t a partisan competition, rather intercampus groups are hoping to gain representation and general students hoping to get involved,” said Halverson.

The committees are split up evenly as well.

“On the committees, a couple members on opposite sides of the spectrum work together to achieve a goal,” said Leonard.

‘The committees rarely come up with partisan issues,” said Halverson.

Leonard said he expected the Falcon Promise to be a hot topic among the Student Senate members, but surprisingly it wasn’t.

“We were working for the good of the school and were not politically motivated,” said Leonard.

The Student Senate at times has issues where taking sides may arise, but mostly it has to do with budget.

“Partisan-wise I don’t see it, but the manner in which we spend our money creates sides with those less willing and more willing to spend,” said Halverson.

Alperin said the Student Senate receives most of its budget from student fees and the parties don’t take a position on that.

“Most students in senate want enough resources for the university to provide students with what they need regardless of party,” said Alperin.

Halverson said that there are students with political views on Student Senate this year, but none of the students bring up their beliefs in debates.

“Student Senate tries to do its best by the students and put their best interests ahead of any political views,” said Halverson.