Praise SG leaders for shooting down Senate expansion

For the Student Government Senate, nipping bad legislation in the bud is just as important as passing meaningful bills.

On that note, we commend Senate President Tyler Montell for deciding not to go forward with his ill-advised proposal to expand the Senate.

At last week’s SG committee meetings, Montell proposed a constitutional amendment to add five more at-large senators to the current slate of 15, reasoning that the growth in enrollment at UK is cause for a larger legislature.

“These senators are supposed to represent the university at large,” Montell said in a Jan. 17 Kernel article. “The university is growing, so why not the Senate too? It’ll give five more people a chance to make a difference.”

Luckily, Montell recognized that the proposal lacked support — for starters, the Senate’s Academic and Student Affairs Committee voted it down — and he withdrew it.

We hope next year’s senators do not even have to put expansion proposals through a trial run in committees to recognize that there is no rationale for increasing the legislature.

Montell’s initial argument that growth at UK requires growth in the Senate is illogical, especially because the student population is not growing. Overall and freshman enrollment at UK has actually dropped since the SG Senate’s most recent expansion — that is, last year — and substantial cuts in state funding could cause another enrollment decline next school year.

Even if enrollment were on the rise, population increases typically do not cause legislatures to expand. For instance, the U.S. Senate has managed to survive with just 100 members since 1959, while the country’s population has grown more than 40 percent, according to the Census Bureau.

Voting for at-large Senate seats is already daunting enough for the few students who show up for the spring SG elections. Voters must select up to 15 candidates out of a field of more than twice as many.

Frankly, we doubt many — if any — students look up the platforms and positions of about 40 candidates and select the 15 best. It is far more likely that name recognition and sheer random selection drive voters’ choices in the at-large Senate race.

Expanding the at-large membership of the Senate would make informed voting even more difficult by further diluting the field of candidates, without a clear benefit for the student body.

After all, there is little evidence that the Senate’s docket is so full that it needs five more senators with whom to share the work. This school year, the Senate has spent most of its time passing funding packets for student organizations, confirming executive appointments, and setting up minor programs like calculator rentals and the Johnson Center cameras.

These accomplishments are not particularly momentous for a body of 40 elected legislators. If Senate leaders want to get more done, they should start demanding more ambitious projects from the current slate of senators.

Then they’ll be too busy to think about unwarranted expansion proposals.