At-large reps make up third of CongressApril 8, 1997
By Jenni Luker
Although Student Congress is intended to be the representative branch of student government, approximately one-third of members were not elected by the student body.
When Student Congress has empty seats due to resignations, at-large representatives are chosen to fill them. Student Congress' 52 members includes 17 at-large representatives this semester.
The process of choosing at-large members is more complicated than putting a name on the ballot. It begins with Student Congress advertising the available positions.
Appointed by the student body president and vice president, the electoral commissioner and the rest of the commission review the applicants.
The electoral commission oversees student government elections and the selection of at-large representatives. The commissioners are students who have not held any positions in student government for at least one year.
Once the electoral commission has reviewed the applications, they grant a limited number of interviews.
After the interview process has been completed, the electoral commission chooses the students to be presented before Student Congress as prospective at-large members. They are not required to fill every seat available.
Finally, the prospective members are approved by Student Congress.
The 17 at-large representatives represent the entire student body rather than a certain class or school. Last semester six Student Congress members were at-large representatives.
With the growing number of at-large members, there is a growing number of Student Congress members who represent the student body, but who are not elected by the student body.
Some students do not agree with this process.
'If the electoral commission isn't elected by the student body, then how can people chosen by them be truly representative of the student body?' said Mina Simhai, a Devil's Lake, N.D., sophomore. 'I really don't see how that's fair.'
Other students think the students should be more involved in the process.
'I think it would be better if the students were more aware that new representatives were being chosen,' said Mary Ross, a Birmingham, Ala., sophomore. 'The process seems to take away the involvement of the students. If you don't know who your representatives are, how can you use them?'
However, many Student Congress members said they agree that at-large members are true representatives of the student body.
'They are students representing students,' said Christy Rome, off-campus representative and a Stafford sophomore. 'Although they may not represent a specific constituent, they still bring in their individual views to the body.'
Some members find that at-large members are not only representative, but have proven to be truly effective.
'The at-large members are representative of the student body because they are chosen by the electoral commission who is appointed by the student-elected president. The electoral commission works to find the best students for the job.' said Tara Parham, an at-large representative and a Fort Worth freshman.
'I became an at-large member at the beginning of the semester and I have found that the at-large members have been some of the most active in Student Congress,' Parham said. 'They have gone among the student body, and gathered ideas for a number of bills that have been passed.'
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