The president of BridgeUSA, a student organization at the University of Rhode Island, recently emailed other student groups on campus to ask if they were satisfied with Student Senate’s work.

The politically active URI student, Sam Foer, emailed a survey to all student organization presidents. Foer’s survey asked students questions to see how they feel about their student representatives in Senate. Foer admitted that the questions were purposely leading and biased.

BridgeUSA is a group dedicated to civil discourse and political critical thinking.

“Do you feel like Student Senate is working in your best interest and/or the best interest of the students,” one question asked on the survey. “Student Senate is just another student organization, just like yours, yet Student Senate’s executive board members receive a stipend. Do you believe that Senate [executive] members should be paid if your Eboard isn’t paid?”

Foer said that the questions were biased because he feels as though other organization presidents agree with his views. “They may have an easier time responding to such questions if they could identify with those questions,” Foer said.

The survey has already garnered 19 responses from presidents and is open until March 15. So far, 74 percent of respondents said they do not believe that Senate is working in the best interest of the students; 68 percent do not believe Student Senate executive members should be paid; 95 percent agree that the bureaucracy stifles the abilities of student organizations and 90 percent would support some kind of alternative to Student Senate.

Foer hopes to collect this data and present it to Student Senate to show them how dissatisfied students are.

Foer was prompted to create this survey after he went to Student Senate to apply for a contingency grant to fund travel expenses for BridgeUSA’s annual conference. Foer said he only received 25 percent of the money needed.

“We hear all the time from Student Senate, ‘We’re doing things in the student organizations interests. We really do care for you, please let us know if there’s anything we can do to help you guys.’” said Foer. “Then when we finally ask for help, yeah they help us, but they have all of these policies and unnecessary steps that hinder what we need in order for us to function most optimally.”

Foer’s survey was mistakenly distributed by the BridgeUSA email until a few days later when he resent it under his personal email. The views of the survey do not reflect the views of BridgeUSA. According to Foer, this is his independent project.

“It’s putting [Student Senate] in this kind of very difficult position to see whether or not they respond well to criticism,” Foer said. “And whether or not they can use criticism or complaints effectively to restructure or to devise policies that do in fact reflect the interests of the student organization presidents. But if Student Senate is opposed to that, that’s when a coalition needs to be formed.”

While Foer is not interested in completely overthrowing Senate, he did say there were other measures that could be examined that may be more productive than Senate. He suggested specific faculty-appointed committees composed of students, or having the Memorial Union itself oversee Student Senate’s policy making.

Current Student Senate President Adriana Wilding, who did not receive the survey herself, was frustrated by the content of it when shown by a friend.

“I found the questions to be extremely leading, and in my opinion very misinformed,” Wilding said. “One question that really stood out to me was the one about the stipends. Student Senate is not the only organization on campus that receives a stipend.”

Wilding said Senate has been working over the past year to streamline their processes and make steps easier for student organizations.

“Why would you want to abolish your own representation?” Wilding said. “That would be a question I would pose to him. ‘Who’s going represent you to the URI administration? Who’s going to represent you to [URI] President [David] Dooley? ‘Completely destroying senate is not going to help the University, it’s not going to help our students, if anything, it’s going to hinder everything even more.”

Jay Rumas, an at-large representative in Student Senate, also agreed that abolishing Student Senate is not the answer to the problems.

“When I was elected, I ran on a lot of things to reform Senate because the process can be annoying and it can be very stifling,” said Rumas. “But, I think it’s important to work within the system and change those things and not to just disrupt. I’m definitely against putting this out there because it doesn’t lead to any productive change, and again, the destruction of Senate is not practical.”

However, Foer said the survey was not about abolishing Senate as much as it was about pointing out things that need to be changed regarding Senate.

“I am not in favor of just destroying Student Senate,” Foer said. “I just put that option on the survey to see how dissatisfied people really were, and to see if they would support such an extreme measure to see efficiency instituted because I think that reflects just how frustrated student organizations are.”