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Senate struggles with ‘outreach’ section of constitution

The Student Senate is the representative branch of ASB, and one of its duties, per ASB’s Constitution, is to form subcommittees to voice the desires of the students through monthly Campus Voice Outreaches.

“As it is written in the Constitution, monthly Campus Voice Outreaches as it sounds like it should be, did not occur officially,” said Haley Courtney, ASB Vice President, who is the chairperson of Student Senate. “I will totally own that, Student Senate will own that.”

This responsibility is outlined in the ASB Constitution, Article 7, Section 5, which assigns the five tasks of the Student Senate. However, as Courtney notes, the follow-through on what’s designated in the constitution, has not been 100 percent.

The Campus Voice Outreaches are not consistently happening. Currently, there are two subcommittees established: the Academic Affairs Subcommittee and the Caf Subcommittee. A Res Life Subcommittee was recently disbanded and two other subcommittees, one for diversity and the other for Greek Life, were dissolved earlier due to an inability of the Student Senate to create changes.

Of the established and disbanded subcommittees, only the Caf Subcommittee ever actively reaches out to the students.

The section that outlines Campus Voice Outreach in the constitution says the Senate must “engage in regular communication with constituents about the issues discussed in Student Senate meetings with the intent of starting a subcommittee concerning such issues.” The Constitution goes on to explain that the senators must be actively seeking out student input.

Alumna Lauren Harris, last year’s vice president, added the Campus Voice Outreaches clause at the end of her term to be enacted by this year’s Student Senate.

“I was a part of the discussion when [Harris] was looking at it, and she said to me, ‘we’ll put it in as monthly, but you may not have to do it monthly and it may take different forms then an official forum,’” said Courtney.

Despite the Senate’s failure to fully comply with this section of the constitution, only one task pertaining to the Student Senate has any repercussions outlined in the constitution if it is not completed – attendance – “that each meeting missed will be five percent deduction from the overall semester stipend.”

, Each position must undergo review to see if he or she completed the requirements of their job. If the review finds responsibilities unfulfilled, normally there is a dock in the stipend pay. The failure to do monthly Campus Voice Outreaches by the Student Senate, however, went without action.

“There were no specific consequences for this specific chunk [the Campus Voice Outreaches] because, I think, we fulfilled it as best as we could with the resources we had this year. Next year, I know there are plans to improve it,” said Courtney.

There are even some students who serve on the senate that think there should be consequences for lack of action taken against Student Senate for not doing monthly Campus Voice Outreaches.

“It should mean that people are getting their stipends docked,” Senior Senator Danny King said. “The Board of Directors also reviews [the Student Senate] in our performance, but there’s a little bit of inside baseball, to use Dr. Kennedy’s phrase. No one wants to say, ‘oh this person wasn’t doing their job’ because then they’re afraid that someone might say that about them. So everyone is writing each other pretty rosy.”

The Constitution outlines the responsibilities of every position in the Board of Directors and the general duties of the Student Senate. Despite this, checks and balances do not exist in a way where responsibilities going unfulfilled, like Campus Voice Outreaches, result in the repercussions due in the spirit of the Constitution.

Though Campus Voice Outreaches are not being fully implemented, Student Senate has still been making efforts to hear the students’ voice.

“We’re trying to, in a very broad sort of sense, just talk to people: to people we don’t normally talk to, and when we do have people we normally talk to, try to intentionally bring up, ‘how are your classes doing?’,” said King. “People vent a lot and are frustrated about a lot of things, and they never get to voice that to anyone who could help them change the system.” Participation from the students in ASB is another essential piece in the overall effectiveness of ASB’s ability to represent the student body. Of the 2,556 students enrolled at PLNU, only 756 voted in the last ASB elections or 30 percent.

“I think you’re missing out on a lot if you just think the campus is just a place to live,” said King.

Courtney admitted that ultimately some inconsistencies do exist when it comes to ASB’s direct adherence to the ASB Constitution.

“No one fulfills all of their responsibilities. There are things that are not enforced and there are things written down that don’t happen,” said Courtney. “When you’re doing review, you have to be consistent across all the positions, and so if you pick on one person because they didn’t do this part, then you have to pick on everyone because they didn’t do that part.”