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An impeachment with two bad sides

Staff Editorial | Friday, March 9, 2007

Notre Dame student government has lost sight of its objectives. While the Student Senate did not remove Morrissey senator Greg Dworjan from office, his impeachment a week ago for campaign violations had little to do with improving student life or presenting a professional representation of the student body to the community and administration. Dworjan’s behavior, however, was equally ill directed.

The senator was impeached both for using a student government copy machine to make posters urging students to abstain and for posting the flyers without approval from Student Activities. But it’s unlikely the impeachment was the result of reasoned concern for the exact letter of the 59-page student government constitution. Imagine Dworjan had printed out and posted flyers reminding students to vote and imagine these flyers were unstamped and copied in the student government office. And now imagine an ethics committee voting to impeach Dworjan if turnout was higher.

This lofty sense of internal importance in the face of student apathy is also highlighted in Dworjan’s defense of his actions, where he cites both Alexis de Tocqueville and “basic freedoms we enjoy as Americans” (“Impeached senator speaks out,” Letter to the Editor, March 7). Dworjan told senators Wednesday he made the posters to exercise his “highest ethic.” However, student government is not a national government, nor is it fighting to preserve democracy – and it needs to stop pretending to be more than what students want it to be.

Students don’t want procedural tie-ups and undergraduate red tape. Students want peer representation and a professional, unified voice.

The case of Dworjan and the Senate illustrates a larger problem. Student government should be about students, not about impeachment and ethics committees and convoluted run-off procedures. There is a side to student government that works for positive change while keeping student interests in mind, and there is a side that pads résumés and writes 59-page constitutions and impeaches when insulted by technicalities. Dworjan’s impeachment is only the most visible manifestation of this second side to student government. It should come as no surprise that only 3,492 votes were cast a few weeks ago in the first election for student body president.

In its history at Notre Dame, the Student Senate has been abolished for nine years, reinstated, and again threatened with disbandment only four years later. In its perpetual quest for relevance, it all too often ignores its constituents. If anything positive comes from the actions of Dworjan and the Senate, it will be the push for an external governmental focus, away from meaningless infighting and toward the concerns of the student body it should strive to represent.