Professionalism in Student Government
During the upcoming Student Government Association Senate meeting to be held on Sept. 14 when a motion was to introduce a bill on student conduct within the weekly meetings. An aspect of the said bill is the requirement of a dress code for students in attendance to foster a professional environment within the forum.
The idea of modeling student government like the U.S. Senate is reasonable. Still, the reality is that governing a small college campus versus the entire nation is vastly different, and these differences should be considered.
A U.S. Senator has one job: to be a Senator. This requires attendance in meetings and work in committees, among other tasks. But, as tiring as this job is, this is a single job. A Mount St. Mary’s University Senator, however, has several positions. While acting as a representative for part of the student body, as a club, class or executive member, these students are still students, many of whom also play sports, work jobs and are active in clubs.
The goal of an SGA is to build a community and fairly represent the student body. To achieve said goal, it is imperative that SGA values inclusion. It is equally important that students take SGA up on their offer and feel comfortable enough to attend meetings and events. To do this, SGA urges weekly emails for any interested student to come for the meeting. The requirement of a dress code is a form of exclusion.
Oftentimes, as a college student, there is a make-or-break moment before deciding to attend or not attend. “Do I know anyone going?” “Will this be boring?” “Do they have any special requirements for attendance?” A dress code could very well be that deciding factor for any student wanting to observe a meeting.
Finding a meeting time that works for a majority means that meetings occur on a weekday evening. This happens at the same time clubs meet, sports teams practice and work-study take place. Frequently, students run from activity to activity, often without time to eat or complete assignments, let alone change outfits.
The counterargument of “the real world” poorly equates a college’s learning environment to the working environment of the U.S. Congress. Unless each student working within SGA has ambitions to work as a Representative on Capitol Hill, a dress code will not be monumental for a future career. The government itself takes on many different forms, especially on a local level. Neighbors do not don suits for their Homeowners’ Association meeting in the same way a student does not wear business casual for an SGA meeting. In governing a small community, building the community itself tends to be a massive part.
Too often, professionalism is equated to formality and too infrequently equated to respect. The reality is that on a college campus, enforcing any dress code is unrealistic.
If anyone, SGA member or not, would like to voice their opinion on the matter, all are welcome in Laughlin on Sept. 14, at 5 p.m.