Students have power. Here at the University of Louisville and universities all across the country. In fact, without the contributions of students, universities could not exist. Without us, they would not have money to operate; they would not have students to fill their classes; they would not have budding researchers that hold critical positions on projects; they would not have a perpetual consumer for overpriced, yet non-nutritious food; and they would have no one to sell overpriced, yet low quality housing to. Without students and their contributions, the university structure comes to a grinding halt.
Although students are in this powerful position, we have the least say in the decision-making process and virtually no practical way of utilizing our power to achieve our interests. What are our interests, you ask? Lower tuition, or at least lower increases in tuition. Better quality housing closer to market rates and flexible housing policies. The availability of nutritious food options at reasonable prices. More involvement and say in the university decision-making process. Safety on our campus. Mental health services that are not overburdened and underfunded. These are our interests as students. No matter your race, color, creed, political beliefs, sexual/gender identity, or any other metric that may divide us, we all are affected by these issues. More importantly, we can all affect the achievement of these interests when we work together.
I joined the Student Senate to help fashion a better reality for students on this campus, and to a certain extent we have. I’ve sponsored legislation that will increase transparency in SGA , a resolution that supports voting rights in the state of Kentucky, and even worked on a housing committee where I successfully fought for more compassionate review of student housing claims in my short term. And I am by no means alone. There are many officials in your student government that are fighting for students every single day–usually without any recognition for their efforts. I can think of many senators who have actively worked to represent the student body, and officials in Top 4 that are negotiating for students every time a new decision is made by the administration that affects our interests.
The problem is, currently the SGA does not possess any leverage in their negotiations with the administration. Our position on many issues is only considered, “the voice of the students” by the administration, an advisory opinion. That voice is clearly not loud enough, and when hundreds of thousands of dollars and people’s futures may be at stake, we need more than a voice, we need power. The amendment I am proposing to the SGA Constitution will give us the power we need to make our voices heard on the issues that affect us all.
This amendment will give the Student Senate the power to call a student strike regarding a specific issue when requested. It can be requested by the executive branch of SGA or a petition signed by 2,500 students. The strike must be aimed at a specific issue or change in university policy and would consist of either refusing to attend class, refusing to attend athletic events, or in the most extreme cases, refusing to pay tuition and other fees to the university. This bill is practical, democratic, and powerful.
If you’ve never heard of something like this, that’s probably because it doesn’t exist. No student government or student body that we researched has this power. This is not a reason to reject the amendment. It is simply a reason to be both cautious and intelligent in our proposal. This amendment is that. It designs a checkable power for the SGA and student body to address their interests, and it ropes in every official in SGA that is constitutionally responsible for representing those interests. The only difference is that now they will have the leverage to use when they represent you, instead of simply having to beg for unforthcoming changes on your behalf. Yes, this is something new, but the conditions of our universities are new. It is time for us to shift with the time and be the first students to say, “We are important members of these institutions, and as such, we need more of a say in how they are run.”
The constitution is your document, so any amendment to it should be passed by the student body. But before you get the opportunity to vote on this amendment, the Senate has to pass it first. It will be voted upon by that body on March 7th. I am humbly asking any and all students to show up to PNC Horn Auditorium and let your Senate know you support this amendment and that you want the opportunity to vote on it. A move that’s new and different like this may scare some senators away from voting yes. It takes your presence for them to know that you care and that you are not scared. Let’s make our university better for everyone by supporting the student strike amendment.
(Read the full text of the amendment here)