The Minute Waltz : Our Retreat

I shouldn’t be angry, but I am, in a way. This weekend I attended the annual DSU Student Senate retreat. Besides a lot of drinking, there was a lot of decision making going on. Some of that came into my camp.

I was asked if I would write up a “jazzy” version of the minutes for the paper. Sure, I said, no problem. The deadline is Monday the 25th. That gave me a short amount of time to write something up, but I did it.

I was proud of what I had. I don’t know if it was terribly funny, but it gave people a realistic look at the Student Senate, with some humour thrown in, and it also gave people a chance to see that we do something.

As far as the retreat went, we didn’t do much. So, I wrote that. I was honest in my writing and kept my hyperboles to a safe distance from the truth. I sent it off to Eric (the president) and Sarah (the vice president) right away. Sarah replied back to me with suggestions for making it better.

I have come to realize that I am not a politician. I should have, if I was a freedom fighter, sent off the original to the paper. But I folded and made her exact changes. I shouldn’t be angry, but I am, in a way. Below is what I wrote. In bold is the text she asked me to delete and in italics is the text she asked me to add.

Hi. My name is Miles Rausch. I am a member of the Student Senate here at DSU. The Student Senate is a collection of students charged with being the voice of the populace. This means more than just being loud and hard to understand. This means having meetings. We have one meeting a week, usually on Wednesday, almost every week a month for every month of the school year. That’s like twelve meetings a year!

Having so many meetings during the year gives the populace (for which we are speaking) a chance to see us in hot legislative action. Rarr. The turnout for meetings is relatively poor (given how many of you there are). My duty with the senate is as the Administrative Assistant. This means I am the secretary, but I get paid for it. So, in an effort to give the senate more visibility, I am also charged with the duty of sending a “jazzed up” version of the minutes to the paper. This is my first attempt so bear with me.

On August 22, 2003, most of the members of the Student Senate gathered at Terry Ryan’s house on Lake Madison to discuss ideas for the new year. We do this because we usually get so behind on our ideas that at least we can say we had good intentions and an early start. I bet SAB doesn’t have an End Of The Summer Super Fun Pre-Planning Retreat like we do. I’m not drawing any conclusions, I’m just saying.

Our first item of business was eating. Terry had two charcoal grills flaming hot for us when we got there. I missed out on a lot of this since I hadn’t realized that my steak should have probably been defrosted BEFORE it was time to cook it. I spent a lot of time in front of the microwave. We ate, we drank, and we finally sat down to start the meeting. The meeting usually starts with me marking down those people who were too lazy to show up. If this was a sport, they’d be running laps during the first meeting. If I had my way…

The first interesting topic we discussed was managing traffic for Dorm Bloat 2003. Eric Saugstad, the president, said, “Okay, we need teams of two people to watch the different major areas. One group will watch the Emry/Richardson Parking Lot and the other will watch the Higbie/Zimmermann Parking Lot. It’s only about two hours a day for Sunday and Monday. Who wants to do it?”

Silence. The meetings never get quieter than after Eric asks who wants to volunteer. We sat there for several minutes listening to the crickets. Then even the crickets got uncomfortable, and all we heard was the lake. After some time we tricked people into raising their hands, myself included, by using something called a ‘guilt trip’. The conscience is a wonderful tool in the hand of those who wish to misuse it.

Next, Kayla Ratcliffe was asked to talk about the Homecoming Bonfire. Last year Kayla had organized a bonfire for Homecoming week. She had a location, wood, and even fire. The only thing Kayla hadn’t gotten was permission. Oops. This year is a different story. This year it’s going to happen. If it doesn’t, I would suggest that everyone avoid Kayla for the first month of school while she her rage ebbs away. She’s not one to reckon with.

A big topic of the night was “tradition”. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the student population is a big fan of apathy. Hopefully the apathy bug waits until after registration to strike, but one can never tell. In an effort to curb the epidemic, the Student Senate has decided to try a campaign for instilling traditions. Don’t laugh. You’ll thank us when your kids start staying at college instead of wasting your money, food, and shelter.

It’s hard to create traditions, though. It is thought that a tradition that people get into will bring them all closer together, but, what that tradition is, we don’t know. Chances are it won’t involve illegal activity, though. I know I heard groans, but there is really no way around it.

One idea that has been put into effect is “Freshmen Adoption”. Various organizations around campus are being given lists of freshman. For the senate, every person gets 5 freshmen. The idea is that, within the first couple weeks of school, we meet with these students. We talk to them, welcome them, and tell them why we’re involved in things around campus. The real benefit of this is we now have five freshmen indentured servants. We were all very excited about this prospect, and we recessed the meeting (it being very dark and me being very unable to see what I was writing anymore) with plans of just what we were going to do with our freshmen.

After a long night, most of which no one remembers, we reconvened about twelve hours later. The group was considerably less excited and talkative than it had been the night before. Go figure.

Exciting topic number one was the Certificate of Merit. This is an institutional pat on the head for clubs around campus. You do nice things for the community and students, and you get a plaque. It’s a quasi-Pavlovian way of getting people to help out the community “just cuz”. I’m not sure it works that way, most of the time, but it does get us involved. Who cares that greed and esteem are our motivators and not good will? There were eventually a lot of ideas, but I can’t tell you what they were until they are declassified. Sorry, my hands are tied.

Exciting topic number two was WebCT. Have you heard of this? It is responsible for quite the uproar around DSU recently. It’s an all-in-one package for grade books, online quizzes, and general mayhem. Despite an outcry from faculty, the Board of Regents has gone ahead and mandated a change over to WebCT. One professor told me that, thanks to his four classes, he has four web pages to make, four email addresses to check, four grade books to update, and sixteen message boards to moderate. Some teachers have flat out refused to use it. We’ll see how the change over goes.

The final topic, the big ‘un, was our goals for the year. If you thought last night was quiet, you should have heard the reaction when Eric suggested we each come up with something. Everyone was antsy to leave. We had just eaten pizza, and now everyone wanted to sleep. We did manage to squeeze out a nice list of ideas (and a larger list of “I don’t know”) before Eric gave up. We did come up with quite a few good ideas, like more student involvement with campus activities, and plans are forming about the possibility of a radio station on campus. Anyone want to be involved? Become a DJ? We�ll see if this idea flies.

When everyone began getting up off the grass in front of Lake Madison and collecting their bags, Eric decided the retreat was over. With a formal motion to adjournment at 1:18 pm, we helped Terry put things back the way they were before we started relaxing all over his property.

As we drove away from the Ryan residence (skillfully hid in a location no human could ever find), I paused to reflect. They wanted a write up of the minutes for the first edition. Then I realized that the first edition deadline was Monday. Well, I guess that doesn’t leave me enough time to write a conclusion, does it? Maybe next time, folks. Keep your eyes peeled for more from “The Minute Waltz.”

2 Replies to “The Minute Waltz : Our Retreat”

  1. this is genious. miles tells it like it is! i like how no sarcasm gets in the article. did hot carl help you write this?

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