Student senate experiences churn

“Are you interested in having your voice heard on campus? Do you want to represent your fellow members of the student body and help affect positive change on campus?” 

Students were asked these questions in three emails from the university’s Student Senate account. The emails sent out in December, January and February came in response to an unusually high number of vacancies in student government in a short amount of time.

Six Senate seats were affected by turnover between mid-November and the end of winter break. Three senators resigned mid-November and their seats were filled by the last meeting of the fall semester on Dec. 9. Three others resigned over winter break, and those seats were filled on Feb. 3.

The Senate has 22 seats, including five chairs.

Turnover itself is not uncommon in student clubs and organizations, according to Student Senate Advisor Adrianne Harris. But what was different about the Senate vacancies was that the vacant positions were mostly chairs, Harris said. 

Four out of the five chair positions had turnover. However, she said all the chair positions were filled as of Monday, Feb. 3. The other vacant Senate seats were filled on Feb. 10. 

Despite the turnover, Senate Committees continued working with Fem Society and the administration to get menstrual hygiene products in campus bathrooms and working with the Sexuality and Gender Alliance (SAGA) on bathroom plaques. But the turnover presented some challenges. 

Student Senate President Chris Costa said training newer appointees takes more time and having to teach new people how to do certain jobs makes it harder to get things done for the students.

“It handicaps us,” Costa said. 

The Hawks’ Herald interviewed some of the former senators to find out the reasons behind their departures. A few said they needed to dedicate their time to outside commitments while others said they needed to focus on academics. 

Costa said there were disagreements within the group, but not over personal issues.

Per the Student Senate bylaws, any time there is a vacant seat, an all-student email needs to go out about the opportunity to serve on Student Senate.  

Harris said two to four applicants are received for every Senate seat vacancy. 

Costa said the Senate is definitely paying more attention to retention and recruitment this semester. He said Vice President Amelia Ashworth and PR Chair Allie DeFabritiis have been meeting every week to talk about these issues.

Senate elections are held once a semester. The next election, during which students will vote for 16 senators and the student body president for the 2020-2021 academic year, will be held April 1 and 2. Four seats dedicated for first-year students will be filled in September.