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COUNCIL OF REPRESENTATIVES: Group has moderate success as advisory body

Karen Langley | Sunday, December 11, 2005

This semester, the Council of Representatives (COR) has processed nominations and approvals efficiently while showing moderate success as an advisory body to the student body president – but its members must fully embrace their role as a sounding board in order for COR to realize its potential as the sole body uniting the policy and programming divisions of student government.

As described in the student union constitution, COR meetings are held to provide a “venue for leaders of the various student organizations to meet and advise the Student Body President on all matters concerning the Student Union as a whole.” The group is also in charge of approving nominations for appointed offices, approving the Student Union budget and controlling use of the Collaboration Fund.

The group has made satisfactory progress in achieving each of these goals, yet it remains challenged by some reluctance of its members to engage in lengthy and candid discussions about each meeting’s business.

Members of COR represent a diverse cross-section of the student body – all four classes, off-campus students, the Club Coordination Council, the Student Union Board, the Judicial Council, Hall President’s Council, the Financial Management Board and the Student Senate – and are therefore expected to bring their respective views to each issue.

Student body president Dave Baron said before he entered office, he “expected that each representative would bring forth concerns as they see them to represent their constituencies.”

Topics such as the student activity fee increases and the budget reallocations brought out representatives’ loyalties, as most speakers voiced opinions consistent with their constituencies’ best interests.

Representatives sit on COR to interact with various campus organizations, but as a group they are somewhat reluctant to participate in any rigorous discussions. They leave much of the direction to Baron, who is supposed to be gleaning knowledge about students’ perspectives from the meetings. Questions are asked and comments are made, but more of each is needed to make COR the truly dynamic body it should be under its constitutional mandate.

The group scores points for efficiency, which is a necessary quality of effective government. COR must continue to be governed so that an increased representation of views in debate is valued while some focus still remains on expediency.

COR must be praised for professional treatment of a potentially volatile situation, the group’s Sept. 19 meeting with city officials to discuss the summer amendment to South Bend’s disorderly house ordinance. South Bend assistant city attorney Ann-Carol Nash and District 4 Common Council member Ann Puzello forcefully defended the city’s actions to a group which generally spoke with respect, but whose care prevented them from accomplishing much – if any accomplishment was possible in an exchange between two such diametrically opposed sides.

Two meetings were also spent examining The Shirt Project, whose mission and structure were examined and discussed after a football season in which the student section was garbed in many different colored and designed shirts. While two meetings was a relatively large time investment to lend to the topic, The Shirt Project’s spirit-raising means and charitable end merit this attention.

While drier than its debates over the South Bend party policy or the Shirt Project’s objectives, the recent debates over changes to fiscal policy may prove to be among this term’s most significant COR discussions in terms of future implications.

“I’m excited about the possibility of creating an endowment for future classes,” Shappell said.

Like the increase in student activities fees discussed Oct. 3, the tweaking of the student union’s fiscal policy will directly affect future student bodies in ways most COR discussions may not. But the activities fee raise is a predictable increase modeled after the increases approved in years past. The fiscal policy work is a particularly significant because it demonstrates an act of initiative on the part of COR to tackle a fresh but much-needed issue that will impact future students, as well as all the members’ constituencies.

COR has shown it can fulfill its mission in a satisfactory manner, but it has the potential to make a stronger contribution to student government if it can find the balance between increasing debate among members and maintaining the efficiency which has marked this administration’s leadership of the group.