Democracy has failed us again!

Student Government

In response to the DTH’s article (“Student Congress Lacks Female Representation“, Nov. 30), I decided to see how well Congress is representing its constituents based on a different criterion: Their majors.

After all, if men are in congress disproportionate to their numbers, maybe other groups are represented disproportionately as well? Would this mean the campus election system is rigged or stacked in some way so as to prevent underrepresented groups from being elected to office?

Fortunately, every congressperson’s major is available by looking at the student congress website. Here’s the breakdown of all 25 undergraduate seats in student congress, according to the directory. The total number will add up to more than 25 due to double majoring:

Political Science 9
Economics 6
Peace, War & Defense 6
Biology 2
History 2
Mathematics 2
Philosophy 2
Psychology 2
Public Policy 2
Computer Science 1
Dramatic Arts 1
English and Comparative Literature 1
Eurasian and Eastern European Studies 1
International Studies 1
Slavic Studies 1

The data appears to show that congress is not representative of the student body because it is dominated by Political Science, Economics and Peace, War & Defense majors. In fact, in this school full of pre-med students we have only 3 science majors out of 25 congress people.

Now, is the failure of congress to, in the words of the DTH, “fail to demographically or ideologically represent the student body” in this manner the fault of “the way members are elected and the way individuals seek seats make the organization”?

Or is it simply that some people are more likely to want to be on congress than others? Could it be, as many of you are probably screaming right now, that people in politics-related majors (Poli Sci, PWAD, Public Policy, Econ, etc) are more likely to want to be part of a political body? Congress races are rarely competitive. In fact, congress has trouble getting enough people to fill its seats. Almost anyone who wants to be on congress can be.

So if almost everyone who wants to be on congress can be, and no one is stopping anyone from running, and some types of people are more likely to want to be on congress than others, then what is the problem when certain groups of people want to run for congress at lesser rates than others? It can’t be a problem with the system.

If congress doesn’t “demographically or ideologically represent the student body”, what if the student body just doesn’t want to be demographically represented? There are few obstacles to being in student congress, so I must conclude that demographic disproportions are due to people who don’t want to run. Are we going to force people to be in congress who don’t want to be there?

What is the point of all this? So long as the election process is fair and open, there is no reason to worry about disproportionate demographics of any type. So long as there is equality of opportunity, the rest is up to the candidates and the voters. Complaining about demographics when there is equality of opportunity is simply nonsense.

6 thoughts on “Democracy has failed us again!

  1. Good post. Makes sense. However, the Granville Towers elections were VERY competitive in the November elections. I wish it were that easy to get on Student Congress because I would be there. We had five people running for one spot. Four out of the five of us received over 70 votes each. It was a rat race.

  2. Mr. Jones, I was glad to read this article. The issue you point out – the issue of unrepresentative majors – is a very valid one.

    For some time, I, along with other members of Congress, have been considering the problem of districts (male/female, religion, race, major, class), and how the current system should be modified to present a more accurate representation of the student body. NC State (which is unarguably the closest thing we have to compare in terms of student governance issues, even though they are not our rival) has solved this issue by creating a Senate whose seats are allocated to their colleges, or effectively majors. This is similar to what the GPSF has done, and what graduate seats in Congress do, but is not applicable to undergrads since people change their majors so much and so easily.

    Don’t take me wrong. I would like very much to see Congress redistrict the undergrad seats, but only insofar as it would allow the first years a chance to decide who represents them. Realistically, the only thing I can do to fix the problems I’ve identified above is to simply ask people to run, which I’m doing as much as I can; that is, I won’t be trying to redistrict by major, or by sex, or by any other quantification of who people are.

    I agree with you that certain majors are predisposed to be more interested in Congress than others, and would agree with you that this is a moot point if the statistics were off by just a few people, but they aren’t. PoliSci, Econ, PWAD dominate, which makes sense, as these majors attract people who would also be attracted to Congress.

    This creates a problem, though. When we get a Congress that is so heavy in some majors and doesn’t represent others at all, Congress is no longer what it was meant to be. Congress stops being THE representative institution for ALL students and instead becomes an overhyped humanities club with a lot of money.

    I can see now you CR kids taking what I’m saying here and simply having a hay day with it, or otherwise discrediting it altogether. There’s evidence for what I’m saying, though, in the existence of smaller, pseudo-SGs throughout the campus by major. Specifically, I know the business, law and medical schools have their own student representative bodies, and think that the pharmacy school has their own. I think there could be a reasonable argument that this is what GPSF is, at some level: a pseudo-SG set up specifically to serve the needs of grad students if for no other reason than that Congress simply wasn’t representing them fairly (not, by any means, to insult GPSF here).

    Many people have come to see Congress as a vague, detached body that arbitrarily hands out funds. They see that Congress does not do a good enough job of representing all students, and as such, has deteriorated into a mere shell of what it was meant to be. Congress is seen as the lesser half of Student Government as a whole to such an extreme that some people do not even know the two are associated.

    I see something different.

    I see Congress continuing to be more effective. I see Congress one day achieving a quality where it can, with the executive branch, advocate for students under the umbrella of a united student government. I see Congress as, someday, being a place where Carolina students from all walks of student life band together to conquer common struggles, and achieve common goals. I can only hope that it will someday be a forum, the forum, where the true student voice comes out.

    I’m getting off my soap box now, and am going to end this. What started as a few sentences in rebottle to a blog entry turned into a blog entry of my own…my bad.

    1. The 'true' student voice is not a unified call for some happy consensus on everything, with no dissent and no opposing views. Common goals like what?

      1. “Common goals” like whatever a majority of the Student Congress says are common goals.

        Take half of the E-Branch, eliminate it, and have Congress focus on those issues. This is supposedly the representative branch of government — you mean to tell me all students care about is giving money to BoUNCe or some other org?

      2. you're quite cynical about Congress' ability to further progress. students can unify on certain issues to advance the values of this fine liberal arts institution and their purpose here.
        what IS the "true" student voice? is there one?

        ps invictus is gonna be a good movie

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