After Troy Davis Quarrel, USS Hosts Dinner
In the midst of an ongoing debate about how best to approach sensitive political issues, the University Student Senate held an open forum about the Occupy Wall Street protests on October 14. The first installment of the senate’s “Dinner and Discussion” series gathered around three dozen New School students in the Lang Café to discuss a wide variety of issues relating to the demonstrations.
The idea behind the student body forum, the first of its kind, is to present opinions on a chosen national or global issue. The USS organized the event in the wake of a controversy within the senate, regarding its release of a statement condemning the execution of Troy Davis.
The statement, published last month, said that the Davis execution was “the norm for how racial injustice manifests in the so-called ‘criminal justice’ system of the United States.” A majority of senators signed the proclamation, which topped the University Student Senate’s website for more than a week.
The following USS meeting saw a debate amongst senators about the content of the statement. Despite the fact that several senators had declined to sign, the statement declared itself to represent the senate as a body.
“[There are] philosophical differences as to whether this kind of thing should be dealt with as a majority vote or by individual consensus,” said Lang senator Santiago Posas.
The delicate subject matter of the Troy Davis statement, and the discomfort it created amongst certain members of the USS, ignited a broader discourse regarding the USS’s political role within The New School.
“The senate was having an honest dialogue about our own personal perspectives on the Troy Davis letter, and asking what our role is as a University Student Senate to speak on behalf of the student body,” said USS co-chair Melissa Holmes, who had the initial idea for the discussion series.
“[There are] two things we hope to accomplish in these discussions,” said NSSR student and longtime USS member Chris Crews. “One is to help bring [together] the seven different schools to actually have a more shared discussion and flush out some of these political questions. But also, for us as a senate to get some more feedback and try and get a sense of where the student body falls on certain issues.”
The USS plans to put out another statement following the event, this time incorporating student input. Those attending the event found it an opportunity to express their own ideas and facilitate a wider discourse.
“I came to have a discussion about OWS, but not necessarily with the hope that my voice will actually transmit to the USS statements.” said Faith Nunley, a Milano student. “If anything, [it is] to encourage dialogue that’s not just on the surface.”