Dear Students' Legislative Council:
I've been sitting in that gallery watching you do your thing on Tuesday nights for almost a year now. In that year, I've missed only one meeting, but as you know, I'm not allowed to speak. Now, I'm taking advantage of the only outlet I have to impart some suggestions and observations to you. You may find me preachy or condescending; but I've been listening to you for 12 months, so suck it up.
You know the Students' Union and SLC are criticized for a lack of effectiveness and a lack of representative capability. You, in return, criticize the student body for their apathy and invite them to attend SLC meetings to find out what's going on. I wonder, when you say this, what incentive do you really provide for them to be there?
Consider the view from the gallery.
More often than not, you appear to be a bunch of scruffy university students slumped in chairs around a table, whispering, passing notes, giggling and bickering amongst yourselves. I've seen meetings drag on for four hours when they could have been done in two if you'd all just put your personal agendas down and been willing to open your ears. I've seen fine examples of responsible governance, but I've also seen completely illogical resolutions given way too much merit because no one could admit they were wrong. I've seen remarkable vision and a remarkable lack thereof. There are days that I'm impressed by your attentiveness and days when I look around for a little dog wearing a party hat riding a unicycle and juggling. Your many faces are certainly entertaining, but they don't all convey a sense of effective, responsible governance.
I know that public attendees besides myself are few and far between at SLC meetings, but that's no excuse for indulging your personal grievances, for cynicism, for apathy or for backbiting. No matter how many spectators there are, your actions and decisions every week have consequences for each student here, whether they know it or not. Try keeping that in mind in future and see if it changes your behaviours. It darn well should.
Try dressing up a bit for SLC in future. Psychologically, it attaches more gravity to the environment and random public attendees will be impressed to see such carefully groomed representatives of their interests. It might inspire more faith than your "Full of Self-Importance Since 1961" hoodies, always in regular attendance. Try sitting up straight and listening to everything your colleagues say. Don't repeat something that's already been said. Keep your flippin' note passing to a minimum and try to maintain a modicum of respect for the other people in the room. If you don't like the job they're doing, there are ways of dealing with that other than needling them in a public meeting, which does not improve their job performance or help the students you represent. Ask questions and hold each other accountable by all means, but keep it professional.
No matter what your personal differences and sentiments towards one another, you are all on the same team. There's a fairly serious responsibility resting on your shoulders and that meeting is the only time you can show that you're aware of it. I strongly suggest you go away for the next month, take a breather and reconsider what you were elected to do. And at the next SLC meeting, ask yourself--every time you open your mouth--if what you're about to say is in the best interests of students. Then ask yourself if they'd agree.
Ruth Davenport can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.