Viewpoint: A divided government helps no one

A government’s role is to provide infrastructure and leadership that incentivizes its citizens toward principles that contribute to a flourishing life. Though very different from the ruling body of a nation, student government is not exempt from this mission-centric design. Student government exists to build a better Baylor and is guided by a set of foundational principles that are made known through the mission of the university, namely the pursuit of “academic excellence,” “Christian commitment” and “a caring community.” These principles serve as a focus for the institution, but also as a last line of defense to protect the very heart of the organization from going astray. To my deep regret, this year we have witnessed student government abandon the heart of its mission by becoming more obsessed with its own success than the betterment of the student body.

Baylor University is host to many student organizations that reflect the diverse interests of our students. Every type of organization has its own measure of success — student government’s being the welfare of the constituents it serves. Like every person and organization, we have temptations. In the absence of the guiding light of our foundational principles, we are drawn to enslavement by power and our reputation. These forces corrupt the noble mission of student government, turning it away from selfless service and toward petty, divisive politics. To be blunt, we have become obsessed with ourselves and abandoned our duty to you, the student body that we cherish. Former Student Body President Wesley Hodges once told me that what makes student government different from the typical government is that it is a political organization that stands aside from politics.

Today, Baylor University’s student government is a shell of its former self. If you have been keeping tabs on us, you know that this year has brought a surge of controversial bills, impeachment trials, and one particularly nasty court case. Our foundational principles will not always allow us to avoid such unfortunate events, but they should inform our perspective on how to react. Each of us should ask, “Does the way I respond to challenges further unite and serve the student body? Or am I so focused on personal gain that I forget about the greater purpose?” Forgetting to ask this question has created political turmoil throughout the organization.

I do not believe in pointing the finger at problems without looking for solutions. I am writing this letter not out of a spirit of condemnation for the organization that I love, but from an attitude of redemption. Now that we understand the state of student government, the worst possible reaction we can offer is more spite, hate, and partisan bickering. Rather, please believe with me that we can dedicate ourselves toward something more than ourselves. It is time that we tear down the walls we have built up against each other and use those bricks to build something of worth to the student body. It is time that student government begins once more to adopt a spirit of openness, reflect the diversity of ideas in the student body, and be dedicated peacemakers fulfilling the mission of Baylor University.

When two swords continually hack at each other, they dull their blades. This is how the divisions in student government have dulled the organization. Yet Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” When two pieces of iron work together for a shared mission, they begin to sharpen one another, regardless of circumstance, ideology and agenda.

It is time to stop hacking our blades and recognize that the only way to escape this dullness of purpose is through mutual respect and strict adherence to the mission of our university. It is time for us to set aside our personal differences and remember the main object of this government, the student body of Baylor University.

James Porter is a sophomore University Scholar from Frisco. He is a student senator and a guest columnist for the Lariat.