Senators support student groups, work to pass resolutions
Mary Bernard | Thursday, December 7, 2017
Student government vice president Sibonay Shewit revised the committee structure in student senate this year, a slight departure from issue-specific committees formed last year.
“We have one that does student outreach, one that does faculty and administrative issues and one that works on the constitution,” Shewit said. “I thought that by doing this they’d be more in touch with what’s going on around campus and carry more of a responsibility to cover everything that students are talking about.”
The constitution committee has proposed several amendments that have passed, which aim to create consistency throughout the constitution and be more explicit about quorum and the role of proxy members, Shewit said.
“I want to see next semester be more of the senators bringing topics of their own and resolutions of their own, and it started really well with our constitution changes,” she said. “I feel that they’re starting to feel a little bit more comfortable bringing things to senate.”
Unexpected events have required the senators to change focus quickly, Shewit said, but having simultaneous projects have not affected the underlying goals of senate.
“I definitely didn’t expect a lot of the sudden things that we’ve responded to, like the housing policy and our work with [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] students,” Shewit said. “Both things took up a significant amount of their time, and [we] didn’t see it coming, but they really did respond to those quickly and really did a good job of engaging with their groups.”
Next semester, Shewit said, she hopes for the senators to finish their work with the housing policy and support for DACA students, then turn their attention towards other issues, such as a campaign to encourage reusable coffee tumbler use and an effort to create business classes for students outside of the Mendoza College of Business.
“I think it’s been a really good start to the year,” Shewit said. “They’ve made a pretty big impact on a lot of issues that our executive time has really put our back behind.”
Shewit conducted a mid-season review of senate to discern the current sentiment among senators and how to improve next semester. She said the survey asked senators to rate their experience on the committees and offer recommendations they have going forward.
“The responses were really positive. I just wanted to make sure that they felt engaged in senate,” Shewit said. “One pretty unique thing is how close they’ve all gotten, and they have wanted more opportunities outside of these meetings to hang out as a group. They really have become a unified body.”
This semester, senators have heard from a variety of speakers including representatives from Campus Dining, The Shirt Project committee and Title IX.
“A lot of times when we invite these speakers, they’re super excited to talk to the senators,” Shewit said. “They know how many voices [the senators] represent and how much of what they say is going to be spread onward.”
Shewit said she believes in the importance of empowering the senators and in showing them how much influence they have on campus.
“Senate — from when I started in student government — has changed so much, and I think it’s moving in such a good direction,” Shewit said. “I think that they do a lot of really great work, and they’re a really representative body and have brought a lot of voices into one room.”
While the senators meet frequently outside of their weekly meetings to work on their committees, continue to discuss issues and push for change, they were set behind somewhat by dealing with unexpected issues by taking more symbolic than concrete actions. Shewit and the rest of the senators now hope to turn their attention to more concrete issues next semester.