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Student Council should not create a new committee to accomplish old goals

Student Council is in the process of creating a new committee: the Civic Engagement Committee. This committee can be nothing except redundant because civic engagement refers to the involvement of citizens in their community and because Council itself is already a body of civic engagement. The University Unity Project is another avenue for civic engagement, intended to bring community members together. Council should focus its shrinking resources on this project before it begins new ones. It is also surprising that Council would choose to create a new committee at this time, with elections just around the corner. This committee may or may not be supported by the new Council and the current Council should not allocate resources to a new project with so little time left in its term.

Council currently has 11 standing committees and it seems unlikely there is any topic left untouched by these committees. According to Council President Matt Schrimper, the new committee will act on the ideas generated by its own committee members and the faculty-run Public Service Advisory Board. The Board is described by Schrimper as a think tank for long-term projects and a description on the University’s Web site describes the Board as “Students, faculty and staff working together to support public service and civic engagement.” There is no reason to create a committee for civic engagement when this Board already exists. Schrimper said because “Student Council has a budget” and resources, this new committee will help Council work to put the Board’s plans into action.

While it is true that Council has resources, these resources are quickly disappearing and should not be devoted to a new committee when all of Council’s previous initiatives have not been fully realized. The best example of this is the Unity Project. Of the Unity Project as a whole, Schrimper said that, “Community engagement is the not the centerpiece.” This year’s Unity Project’s specific goal, ‘Beyond our Grounds, Within our Community,’ highlights community engagement. While it is true that future Unity Projects may not have as much focus on community engagement, it would seem to be a central component to any Unity Project’s success. According to Council’s Web site each year’s Unity project “will call for a collective focus on an issue that concerns every student.” It would be difficult for the student body to collectively focus on something without engaging in the community.

At the end of its term, Council should not be creating new long-term initiatives. Instead, Council should be evaluating the success of current initiatives in the past year so as to make recommendations to the new Council about whether all the current initiatives should be continued. Council is undermining their successors by starting a new project with a shrinking budget.

It will also be difficult for the committee to find an issue that the current standing committees do not cover. Council itself is designed to get students involved in whatever aspect of the University community they are passionate about and another committee does not need to be created to get students more generally involved.

The creation of this committee will only be a drain on Council’s resources and in that sense will be a detriment to the many other initiatives Council has already committed itself to. With a new Council to be elected soon, the creation of this committee is ill-advised. If there is a truly demonstrated need for a committee on civic engagement, it should be created under the new Council once it has established the direction for Council in the coming year.


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