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USenate hopes ability to email constituents increases dialogue

University Senators are pushing to implement a resolution that will allow them to email their constituents senate-related news. While senators from Columbia College and School of Engineering and Applied Science received their listservs last week, most are still waiting, according to Eduardo Santana, CC ’13 and Student Affairs Committee co-chair.

The 108 senators—who represent Columbia students, faculty, administrators, and staff—passed the resolution in April because they say they have few means of directly interacting with the people they represent.

“If you think about someone like me, we have a huge constituency, and we don’t speak to them unless they contact us,” said assistant professor of medicine Jeanine D’Armiento, a member of the Senate’s Structure and Operations Committee, the original sponsor of the resolution. “Now we can have a formalized method of sending out, every so often, emails to let them know what’s going on.”

Santana said that representatives from Columbia University Information Technology had told him that it was harder to compile listservs for the other senators’ constituents than it was to compile one for CC and SEAS students.

“It’s important for us to be able to communicate directly with the people who voted for us,” Santana said. “Prior to this resolution, we didn’t have any means of doing so.”

Senators have often assumed information had been sent out to constituents when it had not been, D’Armiento said, and the new technology will eliminate this problem. “I think on our end, I’m really hoping we will get more information on what people who are non-senators think are the issues,” she said.

Senators said they hoped the resolution would lead to more interaction between elected officials and those who elected them—whether on the student or faculty level.

School of the Arts student and Senator Andrew Payne said he was “hopeful that it will increase everyone’s participation in the governance of our community.”

“We’re looking for a kind of dialogue with our constituents,” Santana said. “There’s the transparency, the exchange of information, and the accountability. We want to be held accountable for people we’re representing, the people who voted for us.”

While students said they were unaware of their senators’ newfound ability to email them, they said they thought it was a reasonable measure for the senate to take.

“The impression I’m getting is that it’s just a way to open up a dialogue, which doesn’t seem problematic unless it gets abused,” Prashant Mukhopadhyay, SEAS ’15, said.


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