The Associated Students of the University of Montana’s constitution says the “primary responsibility of the Association is to serve as an advocate for the general welfare of the students.” But since the departure of outspoken former executives Sam Forstag, Elizabeth Engebretson and Chase Greenfield, the Senate body and its leaders have become complacent.
About three-quarters of the ASUM Senate is made up of social science majors, many of whom currently are or intend to pursue law degrees. As the Senate and its leaders become less vocal, it seems securing careers in Montana politics is more important than standing up for University of Montana students.
Students are angry with the University’s lack of transparency and carefulness with regard to creating solutions for the ever-growing enrollment and budget crises. The Senate has produced a single academic prioritization resolution asking the provost to elaborate on his 2021 strategic budget targets since Butler and Welch took office.
ASUM has also failed to respond to the displacement of its own childcare after asbestos levels prompted UM to move babies and pre-schoolers from two buildings. According to senate minutes from Jan. 30, the Senate finds the University responsible for fixing the asbestos-related problems in association with ASUM Childcare. Since the discovery of asbestos in January, the Senate has passed legislation regarding its own website, defining students-at-large and responding to state legislative bills.
As the voice of the students, we expect both executives and senators to not just take half-baked stances on important issues facing the University, but also to take action. While we acknowledge much of the valuable work done by senators happens on the committee level, it’s time to stop wasting senate meetings on passing non-actionable resolutions defining the role of the senate.
The Kaimin should not be the only body of students addressing the administration and informing campus about the issues it’s facing. ASUM has used its power to produce real action at the University before, and it can be done again.
Note: This editorial was written in response to this week’s cover story. The opinions in this editorial represent those of the Kaimin’s editors and do not reflect on the reporter of the cover story.