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Archive for Friday, July 17, 1998

CHAMBER MEMBERSHIP IRKS STUDENT SENATORS

July 17, 1998

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Kansas University student leaders are at odds regarding the decision to make KU Student Senate a member of the Chamber of Commerce.

Some student leaders are crying foul over a decision by the Kansas University Student Executive Committee last month to give Student Senate a paid membership in the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce.

``I just really disagree with it,'' said Partha Mazumdar, a graduate senator, noting that an essential chamber goal is to make conditions more favorable for businesses. ``Student Senate is a governmental organization. We don't sell anything. So what's the point of us joining?''

Others, like Tom Moore, KU senior and a former member of senate finance and university affairs committees, say aligning the university and the chamber can only help bring an educated work force and businesses that rely on that work force closer together.

``I think there are a lot of interests that are shared,'' Moore said.

KU's nine-member StudEx Committee, a group of senate leaders including Kevin Yoder, student body president, and Scott Kaiser, student body vice president, acts on behalf of senate during the summer. StudEx made the groundbreaking decision last month.

Chamber membership fee: $175.

``We could have spent the $175 for software for our computers or something else,'' Mazumdar said.

Kaiser, a KU junior, said chamber membership could have a number of benefits for students. For example, he said, it could enhance senate's political clout in the city on issues such as public transportation and Saferide, or it could encourage businesses to sponsor events held by student organizations.

``A $175 membership fee will seem like pocket change when businesses start sponsoring student organization events, paying for their T-shirts, and catering their food,'' Kaiser said.

Michelle Dennard, a KU senior and student senator, said the sponsorship argument doesn't pass muster.

``To pay a fee to join the chamber doesn't really make much sense when groups can do it just as easily themselves,'' Dennard said, adding that the money would be better spent on regional or national student advocacy groups.

Dennard also expressed concern that the entire senate was not able to vote on the matter, especially given a number of students' uneasiness about corporate influences in education, an anxiety reflected in current Senate Internet debate.

``If students do have real conflicts with the idea of joining the chamber of commerce, then that's something we should take a look at,'' Dennard said. ``It was kind of just run through during the summer.''

Mazumdar agreed, noting that StudEx should exercise its summertime decision-making power only in emergencies.

``If something can wait, it's supposed to wait for senate as whole,'' Mazumdar said. ``What's the rush?''

Kaiser said the decision was made over the summer to allow for a head start in attracting possible sponsors, thereby stretching the senate budget and preventing the unallocated, or discretionary, fund from running dry, as it did last year.

``We're just talking about making sure no one gets overlooked,'' Kaiser said.

-- Matt Gowen's phone message number is 832-7222. His e-mail address is mgowen@ljworld.com.

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