Although Student Government has numerous committees to advocate for student interests, this semester, several students have carried out initiatives outside the traditional committee structure.

How effective are Student Government committees?

Although Student Government has numerous committees to advocate for student interests, this semester, several students have carried out initiatives ...

Nov 21, 2015

Although Student Government has numerous committees to advocate for student interests, this semester, several students have carried out initiatives outside the traditional committee structure.
Such is the example of senior Rasha Shraim, who is part of an independently organized health lobby group on campus.
When asked what drove her to pursue this project individually, rather than through Student Government’s Student Health Advisory Board, Shraim replied that it started out due to “frustration with the traditional ways, because the Student Government health committee doesn’t seem to be running on a regular basis … unless there is a crisis.”
Senior Jules Bello, Student Government Officer of Communications, maintained that a committee should act as a liason between Student Government and the rest of the student body.
“[Committees] ideally should have a good relationship with the department they interact with and should have more access to information that they then relay on to Student Government,” she said.
Yet Shraim noted there can be advantages to acting as individual students.
“The only people we have to report to and work under is just ourselves, and we already came in with a very strong conviction; we already know the things we want out of this,” she said.
Shraim also explained that not working through a committee has been beneficial for her cause since, “without the committee label we are closer to the students.”
“Student Government is too close to administration, which can mean compromising too much for the sake of keeping administration happy,” she added.
While she did commend the committees for being useful on a long term basis and for providing a platform for student discussion, she also noted that acting as an individual allows for more flexibility in responding immediately to new developments.
A similar sentiment was echoed by Bello, who described a parking issue that arose over the summer due to miscommunication between Public Safety and Campus Life. In an effort to tackle this issue, a group of students, Bello included, went directly to Public Safety as opposed to a committee.
According to Bello, soon after the students made Public Safety aware of the issue, "it was resolved very quickly.”
At the same time, however, Bello stated that the best way to resolve other issues would still be through Student Government.
“When you are electing a representative, you are electing a personality type as well,” she said. “You’re electing someone that you think administrators can relate to, someone they’d be interested in communicating with.”
According to Bello, this is preferable to “random members of the student body going to administration and talking about things.”
When asked about the general effectiveness of committees, Bello explained that problems can arise not because of specific individuals or committees, but because of a loose definition for committee responsibilities.
“Somewhere in the history of administration of the Student Government, the concept of the committee was not properly practically established,” she said. “A student on a committee should be willing to work on [their] committee at least every day. But because this wasn’t properly conveyed to people who were joining committees, it’s not fair for us to tell them now to be thinking about this committee every day.”
Deputy Dean of Students Donna Eddleman noted that in different situations, students and committees play different roles.
“I don't believe that an individual student has necessarily more impact than the student Dining Committee does,” she said. “The exception would be if a student walks in and says something happened, and it’s significant and it’s legitimate … We have an obligation to respond pretty quickly, and it may not be necessarily be through the student Dining Committee.”
While both Shraim and Bello expressed disappointment over the long response time of some committees, freshman Firas Ashraf, member of the Dining Committee, said that, “It’s not as easy as meeting with administration and thinking they’re going to get things changed in a second.”
As chair of the Campus Life Policy Committee charged with drafting a community guidelines handbook, sophomore Max Eckert expressed a similar view. “It’s much more than just an email or a Facebook comment.”
He also emphasized the importance of a committee being representative of a collective student voice.
“The more voices you can gather, the more impact you’re going to have,” said Eckert.
Eddleman also emphasized the positive interaction between Student Government and administration in regards to the student parking issue.
“I think the fact that Student Government was involved … allowed us to coordinate the messaging and to try and manage the message in ways that I hope students perceived as healthy,” she said.
Ashraf was wary of students going directly to administration for each incident they encounter.
“Going to Donna Eddleman may work once, but I don’t think it’ll work every time," he said. "You can’t demand a meeting every time.”
Ashraf noted that Eddleman sits in on Dining Committee meetings as the committee’s primary point of contact. Last week, the committee also met with the head chef and the liaison from NYUAD’s catering service, ADNH Compass.
"We actually do work with them, I’m just not sure students are aware of that,” Ashraf concluded.
Connor Pearce is news editor. Larayb Abrar is a copy editor. Email them at
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