Some leaders take an organization and continue to only uphold its past traditions, but that is not the case with Albion’s 2017-2018 Student Senate. This academic year’s senators have worked to grow from past accomplishments and make a difference on campus. Senate is looking to continue that positive momentum into the spring semester.
But, before we talk about their goals, knowing what Student Senate even does is an important place to start.
The Senate’s meetings generally consist of each student executive officer giving a report, then an open discussion where campus issues can be brought up. Depending on what issues are mentioned, meetings can last anywhere between 45 minutes to over two hours in the case of their meeting in Upper Baldwin last semester.
Senate has three committees – the appropriations committee, the academic and student affairs committee and the engagement committee. Most students are likely aware of the appropriations committee as they handle the allotment of money to students organizations.
The academic and student affairs committee’s responsibilities vary from year to year based on who is in charge of the committee and what their goals are for it. The only requirement is that they are part of the student review process that helps determine if a faculty member gets tenure.
The engagement committee is in charge of Homecoming and a faculty/staff appreciation dinner in the spring.
Beyond these positions, the President and Vice President work to make sure student’s voices are heard by administrators. I sat down with Robert Joerg, a junior from Fremont, Ohio, who is the current Student Senate President to hear about what they’ve been working on this year.
Within Senate, there are funds for a “Pet Project” — for example, creating the fire pit between Twin and Whitehouse. One of their highlights so far for this year is the undertaking of a new project. Approved at their second to last meeting last semester is the construction of a volleyball court next to the Dow. It already has the funding and Facilities’ approval but is still waiting on the final OK from the Board of Trustees’ infrastructure committee.
While a volleyball court does already exist between Sigma Nu and Alpha Tau Alpha, Senate feels this will be more welcoming to students outside of those organizations and kept clear of trash such as broken glass. If the project gets approved construction would begin late spring to early summer.
Another change Senate decided to take on was passing a resolution, which has not happened for quite a few years.
“Our resolutions go in front of the Board [of Trustees] when they meet every semester, but we rarely do pass resolutions. It’s normally big things. Like before we’ve had resolutions saying we’re committed to the racial and gender diversity of the college,” said Joerg. “I co-wrote with another senator, Carla Aranda, a resolution committing Albion College to sustainability. That was one of the things that I was very personally interested in.”
The resolution asks Albion College to divest from all coal production companies and develop a presidential advisory committee about sustainability, among other requests.
“When Donna Randall was president [of Albion College], she did a lot with sustainability and environmental awareness and so forth,” said Joerg about his decision to create a resolution. “Well, that got pushed to the wayside with the financial crisis and the college’s declining enrollment. Fixing that was obviously a bigger priority, but now that we are getting around to better self-sufficiency in those areas I believe it is time to get back to that.”
Student Senate President and Vice President go before the board once every semester and they are there to voice student concerns. The next time will be this upcoming May where they will have an update about sustainability, Wi-Fi (an issue they brought up last time) and they will likely bring forth one new issue that students find important.
For those who were not new to Albion this year, there was also a change with how Homecoming was celebrated on campus. For the first time, there was a contest between all student organizations to participate in spirited activities throughout the week. This was a successful initiative to increase involvement.
Additionally, there was a second round of budgets during the fall semester, which allowed student organizations a second chance to receive funds for the semester.
Looking to this semester, the changes don’t stop. During Sunny Kim (Senate’s Vice President) and Joerg’s campaign for their positions, the lack of gender-neutral housing was brought to their attention. It’s something they would like to focus on.
Speaking with administrators to see if having voter registration become part of the FYE class is also something that could be added to the First Year Program.
“I think that would be great if they took a half hour during their weekly meeting and just registered everyone,” said Joerg. “It’s done once; you get almost the entire freshman class.”
Joerg believes this would be a chance to combat young adults’ low voting rates.
Senate is working on hosting a similarly styled open floor meeting as last semester, but with Jerry White and Tim Dewitt speaking about how Albion College spends its money. The meeting would likely take place in February or March and would hopefully answer questions students have and increase the college’s transparency.
One final goal for the semester is to consider parking as the next “Pet Project.” Joerg says parking is a complaint he hears a lot from fellow students. He feels that paving the parking lot between the Mae Apartments and Delta Tau Delta would be a good place to start. The lot is small and having spaces individually marked would increase its efficiency.
Overall, Joerg hopes to make Senate’s actions more visible to students and keep communication open so that students feel their needs are being voiced.
“That’s the purpose of the Senate: to take the issues to the administration, to the board and see if there can be a good solution that can come out of it because if we’re not doing that, then we’re not doing our jobs and we’re not serving our purpose,” said Joerg.
Student Senate meets Monday’s at 9:10 p.m. on the 4th Floor of the KC.
Photo by Katie Boni