September 12, 2010

Opening a New Line of Communication

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In the past, these editorial pages been used to decry the Student Assembly’s lack of communication with students. We have called on the S.A. to take a more involved approach to government that uses student engagement to make tangible changes in areas within its jurisdiction. The passage of Resolution 6 — which would allow the assembly to send mass e-mails to the student body — would be a positive step in improving the S.A.’s communication with its constituents. But the S.A.’s practices in exercising this privilege, and the constraints that will govern the dissemination of these e-mails, will ultimately determine its effectiveness.It is vital that the S.A. use these e-mails to solicit student input and involve more students in assembly initiatives and legislation. If the e-mail campaign effectively turns into a monthly newsletter — a one-way chronicle of S.A. comings and goings — it would become useless to everyone. Many students would quickly filter the mailings into their spam folders, continuing their general apathy for all things student government. Additionally, the S.A. would continue to lack the student involvement that currently thwarts many of their efforts to draft relevant, practical resolutions.In order for this campaign to be functional, a number of important checks will have to be placed on the system. For starters, there should be limits on the number of e-mails the S.A. can send within a given time period — one every two weeks or one month, for example. This would ensure that the S.A. does not abuse the privilege, and only e-mails students with important concerns and initiatives. Too many e-mails would clog this line of communication between students and student government, and leave the S.A. back at square one. It would be best if the e-mails were unscheduled — to avoid the repetition and stagnation that would likely come with a monthly mailing — and reserved for special circumstances when communication with the student body is imperative to the S.A.’s task at hand.Each e-mail should run through some sort of review process by an administrator before it is sent to the student body. The review process should be speedy — no more than 24 hours — and unobtrusive, ensuring only that nothing offensive or potentially dangerous is sent out to the entire student body.In addition, each e-mail should offer the recipient the choice to opt-out of the S.A.’s list-serve. While the S.A. should always work to make itself more available to the student body, students should not be forced to pay attention. Currently, students can unsubscribe from mass e-mails sent out on listervs (a process detailed here), and a hypothetical S.A. e-mail list should be no different.This plan has the potential to improve communication between students and the S.A. if implemented correctly. But it will be up to the S.A. to exercise the restraint and good judgement needed to finally engage effectively with the student body.