The Associated Student Body (ASB) will unite the previously separate offices of Student Congress and Board of Review into a singular representative entity, the Student Senate, this year in an effort to change the system of student representation.
According to Melissa Burt-Gracik, advisor to ASB, staff made the decision to reconstruct due to stressed relations between campus decision makers and Student Congress, a process that has been developing over the past couple of years.
“A number of staff came to me feeling a little frustrated with the sense of being called to account when bills or resolutions were being put before the Student Congress,” said Gracik, therefore fostering an atmosphere of friction, whereas the Student Senate encourages a working place where the two parties join forces to achieve an ultimate goal.
Another motivation for the reconstruction of the Student Congress was the need for simplicity and the promotion of efficiency. According to Haley Courtney, Student Senate Speaker of the House, last year’s system focused on bulk – getting as many proposals on the table as possible – yet this drive crippled their productivity.
Thus, only a minimal amount of work could go into each proposal. Now, however, the goal of Student Senate is to put work and thought into each proposal, weighing its feasibility before presenting their case to Administration to consider.
“I really want students to know that our student government really wants to help serve the student body and make things better for [them]; that’s why all of us are doing the job that we are doing, that’s why we want to be involved. I want it to be the same for the Student Senate,” said Courtney. “You’re doing it so you can be a voice for your peers. So that you can make their quality of life better while they are at this school.”
Administration also seeks to regain efficiency by changing the face of representation. Contrary to previous years, where location and living quarters determined representation, students now elect four people from each class to present their cases to Administration and ASB.
“The switch from Congress to Senate is a very good thing,” said Courtney. “It is going to make the representation of the student body a lot better because now we’re doing it by class versus by dorm.”
Representatives organized by dorms often found themselves trying to voice the opinions of students in two or three different grades, causing a sensation of scattering and an inaccessibility of those representatives of the student voice. With the new Student Senate, ASB hopes to kindle a sense of unity through familiar ties, so instead of electing a stranger, a student elects a friend or classmate.
The Student Senate will now fulfill the duties the Board of Review once performed before their acquisition by Student Congress. Not only are the sixteen members responsible for the student voice, but also for reviewing any establishment that receives stipends from ASB to make sure they are doing their jobs.
However, for students like Kai Pedersen, a sophomore candidate, an opportunity to run in the Senate becomes another outlet for him to express his passions.
“I have always been called toward positions of leadership and more so, positions of service. I have a passion for just generally improving what I can improve and fixing things that need to be fixed and building things that I might need to build,” said Pedersen.
Even though he’s only been to the first informational meeting, Pedersen is overflowing with ideas, including a plan to try to double the amount of shuttles circulating around campus throughout the day.
However, without student involvement, the Student Senate is ineffective.
“You have the choice of who you pick to represent you, take advantage of the fact that you have a lot of people who want to help you,” said Courtney. “Vote for them. Vote for who you want to be your voice because whoever gets elected is going to be the representation you get.”