Senate critic wants refund of $174 fee

by Katie Lnagesen

A Simpson sophomore, claiming that unelected represenatives wield power in Student Government, is asking for a refund of his $174 student-government fee.

Eliot Garfield said there’s a lack of democracy on campus and that he wants his fees returned as a result.

“The government in power isn’t a legitimate government elected by its constituents,” Garfield said, adding that he felt some members of the Student Senate had not been elected, but chosen by other members.

Students from college apartments and theme houses are serving on Senate but are not formally elected. Garfield said that this isn’t the way a democratic student government should be run and that it’s unfair that he should pay a student government fee to finance the Senate.

But the vice president of the student body, Pearl Podgorniak, said the Senate doesn’t require that its members be elected to office.

“[It’s] not really the Student Senate’s responsibility [to find senators], we accept whoever is selected,” said Podgorniak.

Podgorniak said that there is a lower level of interest to be a senator and there is really no process for elections of senators, there just needs to be a consensus by the housing unit.

Full-time students at Simpson College each are paying a non-refundable $174 activity fee this year. Of that total, $15 per student pays for renovations and maintenance at Brenton Student Center, and $20 covers the cost of the student newspaper program that brings the New York Times, USA Today and the Des Moines Register to campus. The remaining $139 goes to the Student Senate, which votes as to where the money should go.

Garfield said he first took up his problem with the business office. From there, he went to Jim Thorius, the vice president for student development.

“The money gets allocated and funds a wide array of programs and amenities,” Thorius said, explaining the purpose and importance of the student government fee.

Garfield said he wasn’t satisfied, though, because he said there is a continued lack of democracy.

Jake Abel, the president of the student body, said he’d like to see more democracy in student government.

“[There are] some areas in which students could have more control. Historically speaking, Simpson’s student government has been relatively weak,” said Abel.

Garfield said he’s more interested in making points with the administration than he is in actually getting a refund of his student activity fee.

In his meetings with Thorius, Garfield said he brought up the issues that he was having with Student Government. He said he was asked to take a more active role in future elections so as to prevent further problems.

“It’s not supposed to be us against them,” Garfield said. “We’re students, they’re Student Government.”

Abel said that if any students had any issues to discuss with the Student Government, there are a number of ways to contact them. Students can come directly to Senate meetings on Wednesday nights to voice their opinions. They should also contact their senator or any other representative and have them discuss it during Senate meetings.