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Senate increases efficiency since merge with COR

Maddie Daly | Friday, December 7, 2012

Grade: A-

Because of the enriching discussions, attentive participation and respectable quantity of resolutions passed, this year’s Senate deserves an A-. The group has accomplished some tangible goals, like the approval of a HAWK system near Twyckenham Road, and maintained a disciplined and professional atmosphere. However, many of their resolutions were puppet statements, adding to the group’s filed paperwork but not actually accomplishing much.

 

This year’s Student Senate has been more productive than past groups due to the dedication of the senators and the new format of meetings, student body president Kate Rose said.
“I’m really happy about our successes so far,” Rose said.  “I could not be happier with the engagement and enthusiasm of the Senate members and department heads.”
Last December, the Council of Representatives merged with the Student Senate to form one larger governing body. As for the new format of meetings, Rose said the group is able to get more done and have more time for discussion.
“I’m very excited about the merger [between Senate and the Council of Representatives],” Rose said.  “Last year, the representatives from all 29 dorms and off campus sat around the table while the directors of each department sat at the front. The agenda included updates from all ten department heads which took up a lot of our discussion time, leaving senators sitting there with blank stares.
“By having just one update a semester we have increased efficiency and are able to have thirty to forty more minutes of discussion per meeting.”
This year’s senators have approved more resolutions than their predecessors, Rose said, because the merged setting allows them to actively engage with the group’s agenda.
“It’s so exciting to see people engaged during the meetings, and the fact that we’ve passed 34 resolutions so far – more than previous senates have passed in entire years – is a testament to the senators themselves,” Rose said.  “The resolutions that warrant more discussion then others have pushed us to strengthen our arguments and keep everyone engaged and alert.”
Although 34 is a large amount of resolutions to be passed in such a short amount of time, it is important to look at the quality in addition to quantity.  Some of the resolutions are more trivial than others, accomplishing little more than creating titles for positions or approving thank-you notes to be sent to various departments.  
One of the more controversial resolutions sparked debate on the formation of a sub-committee of the gender relations department, which in turn prompted discussion of a Gay-Straight Alliance.  Senate members argued quite heatedly and needed intervening on Rose’s part to stay on topic and stay professional rather than getting too involved in personal opinions.  The resolution ended up being passed on Sept. 12 despite the debate.
Another important resolution dealt with community relations and appeared before the senators after the Sept. 28 Community Summit meeting.  The resolution stated the ideas brought forth at the debate would be put into action within the 2012-2013 academic school year in order to better the relationship between students at Notre Dame and members of the South Bend community.  The resolution passed with no objections.   
Previous senates have had problems with attendance and interest, but this year’s group has had a near-perfect record.
“Student Senate has held its discipline so far,” Rose said.  “Sometimes enthusiasm wanes a little bit, attendance declines, things get busy – but this year is the first year we haven’t had to call senators asking where they are.  We’ve had no attendance problems and always get emails from senators who can’t attend or who plan to send a proxy.  I’m very proud by the amount of work everyone has put in.”
Looking ahead to next semester’s transition, Rose said she feels confident that her job will be passed into good hands.
“I love the fact that transitions happen in February and we are able to have department heads appointed by March,” Rose said.  “That way we can have plenty of talks with our predecessors to establish a good relationship.  Transition month is crucial.”
As for the transition itself, Rose said the most difficult part will be acquainting new members with parliamentary procedure.
“It’s tough to get all the lingo down, and a lot of it has to be learned as you go,” Rose said.  “Before the first Senate meeting we have a senator training program where we go through a fake resolution to practice.  I like parliamentary procedure because it makes sure everyone has an equal voice and ensures that the meetings run smoothly.  It’s good because it keeps everything formal.”
Even though this year’s senators have been very successful in bettering the school, Rose said more important is the fact that they have grown as individuals and leaders.
“It’s fantastic if we can improve the school, but it’s an even better opportunity for people to work together and find new avenues when there’s a roadblock, learn how to divide up tasks,” Rose said.  “To hear people on senate talk about how they’ve become more engaged in the school and developed personally, that’s what makes me happy.”