As Ron Paul stated in the CNN Arizona debate in February, “It isn’t the oath to our party; it’s the oath to our office to obey the law, and the law is the Constitution.”

In our case, the law is also the Freedom of Information Act. Normally, abiding by FOIA shouldn’t be a big issue for Student Government. However, given the fact that we had undergone secret ballots, misinformed the student body and failed to update all our minutes and legislation, I’d have to rethink where we stand as an organization.

I’m from Chicago. I had to live with corrupt politicians for 15 years. Usually, the scandals have to deal with selling someone a seat in office, not discrimination or ousting them from office.

I am not a veteran senator, but I have been a senator long enough to understand that we have a number of individuals who can’t separate personal sentiments from business.

We have a lot of “type A” personalities in the organization who have a tendency to vigorously retaliate against any form of constructive criticism. When a movement like Occupy GMU conducts an event, we shouldn’t be offended or mock them because they state the changes they want to see within the university. Isn’t that what SG is all about? Shouldn’t we listen to and address the concerns of the student body?

I firmly believe that Will Rose had a legitimate reason behind his article and I’m disappointed by the remarks made by fellow senators (who are also my closest friends). We should hear everyone’s cases even if we disagree or we are offended. When we hold an elected position, we should expect negative feedback or criticism. After all, we are the public servants of the student body. We shouldn’t have such a heavy focus on our reputation. If there is one lesson learned, the more we are distracted by the focus of our reputation, the more likely we’ll receive a bad reputation among the student body. We should keep an open mind. We don’t learn from praise, but we learn from the criticisms we get.

Given that the SG budget is compiled by public funds, we are obliged as an organization to follow two sections of FOIA: Open record and open meetings. Unlike SG, Global Zero doesn’t have any constituents to serve, nor do they have any funds. Therefore, they are not subject to FOIA.

It is not your beliefs that make you a good person. It’s your behavior.

I also find it very discouraging that when a senator speaks out and informs people that they are going about things in the wrong ways, the senator is either scrutinized or is impeached. I also don’t think lawsuits are the best form of conflict resolution, but if the opposing party is refusing to cooperate, what other options are there?

Also, the past lawsuits that we had gone against hadn’t really been in our favor. The judge dismissed the Jordan v. Short case because the petition for mandamus listed Short as the individual, not as the chairman of the Government and Academic Affairs committee. However, before dismissing the case, the judge stated that he would have ruled in favor of Jordan.

The recent lawsuit by Donald Garrett (and may I add that it is his first lawsuit) was not dismissed because the judge believed it was “ridiculous.” The attorney, on behalf of the SG members sued, motioned for a summary judgment, which suggested that Garrett did not have a case. The judge rejected that motion believing that Garrett did have a legitimate case but ultimately dismissed it because he felt that the leadership meeting that planned the impeachment resolution was very similar to a political party caucus. I’d have to agree. Our organization has adopted a political party system, and all those who are not a part of the majority party are scrutinized.

I do believe that our organization wants the best for the students. However, I believe that we sometimes get caught up in our personal feelings or are confused about what the students really want. Actually, in the past court case concerning Garrett, the attorney stated on behalf of SG, “Student Government has no power.” I find that offensive as a senator. If we hold no power, then why do we rightfully receive a $25,000 budget? If we hold no power, then why is it necessary to wrongfully impeach a senator? If we hold no power, then why do we spend thousands of dollars for a dinner with the dean and provost and an Academic Advising Expo? If we hold no power, then why are we trying to set up a safe rides program?

I believe that SG does have power, and I also firmly believe that we should use our power to effect positive change for the Mason community. That being said, I would like fewer bills calling for policy changes within the student body constitution and codes, and more resolutions implementing a fairer drug policy. I would like to see less wasteful spending on food, cookies and shirts, and more spending for environmental changes at Mason. (Thankfully, the resolution for taxing students five cents for plastic bags has been tabled.) I would like to see less retaliation toward students for their concerns and more interaction with students.

I find it my duty, as a student representative, to take urgent action for a revision of the drug policy when a productive student has been suspended for the possession of marijuana and isn’t able to graduate. We’re all here to obtain a degree. I find it unfair that a student who has contributed to the Mason community greatly and studied diligently can’t have her rightfully earned degree. So when my resolution was tabled for two weeks without a chance to provide a rebuttal, I was furious that we forgot the urgency. However, I decided to continue working on this with the GMU Students for a Fair Drug Policy.

I find it unfair that those who push for transparency, fairness and productiveness are branded as the culprits, the outsiders or the troublemakers. I just want to remind everyone that when you point a finger at someone, the other four fingers are pointing at you. An elected official shouldn’t be a “team player” and go with the popular opinion when popular opinion is wrong. As a trustworthy individual, you will stand up for what is right, even if you stand alone.

You can be a great speaker and a great politician, but ultimately you have to be a good person. We are elected student officials because the students voted for us. We shouldn’t be disrespectful toward the student body. If my colleagues find this rude, I apologize, but I believe that the truth should be spoken. I believe that the most disrespectful action right now is made by the organization toward the student body.

I really do love my colleagues for who they are as individuals. I think they’re great people with great ambitions. I just have to respectfully steer away from their ways. And if they are reading this, I want them to understand that I do have a high respect for every individual. I still do consider them friends after all our disagreements and differing concerns. In all honesty, I am afraid that this might result in isolation or repercussions from the organization. However, I will stand by my statements because I think it is necessary and it is the right thing to do.

-Sarah Harvard, Student Senator