Student senate creates conversation with administrators
Heaven Carter | Wednesday, December 8, 2021
Every Wednesday evening on the second floor of LaFortune Center, student government vice president Matthew Bisner chairs the student senates weekly meetings. Bisner shared an overview of how the student senate went this past semester with The Observer: explaining some of the senate’s goals, areas they excelled, areas they struggled in and future plans.
Bisner said that while six resolutions have been passed, an additional eight orders have also been passed, mostly constitutional amendments. In total, 14 pieces of legislation have been passed this semester.
Although the student senate did not pass as many resolutions as previous years, their focus this semester was different. There has not been one particular agenda of the senate this year — its main concern has been responding to the needs of the individual student.
“What we’ve been able to do this year is really remain flexible to the needs of the student body as they arise,” Bisner said.
In terms of meeting their goals and agenda, Bisner shared, “We’ve been able to bring in administrators when things are getting tense around certain areas. So early on, there was a lot of tension and anxiety in the student body around COVID and COVID policy on-campus testing, getting access to tests and understanding quarantine procedures.”
In particular, the senate was able to host Dr. Ed Junkins and Dr. Christine Caron Gebhardt, who respectively run UHS and all student services.
“Those two together were able to answer a lot of our student leader concerns, who were then able to go out to the residence halls, and go out to their classes and talk to the students about their concerns,” Bisner said.
Additionally, Dr. Christine Conway, was able to inform the student senate about mental health on campus.
Guest speakers such as Dr. Jenkins, Dr. Gebhardt and Dr. Conway were able to inform the senate about their work and answer any questions and concerns students may have.
Some of the most influential work the student senate has done during this semester has been taking bites out of the bigger problems.
“Senate meetings are never where the problem is solved, it’s always where we’re making plans,” Bisner said. “There’s been a challenge of discerning goals for the Student Union itself. It’s hard to build the Student Union into an institution when we all turn over every single year when you know, anyone who has institutional knowledge is gone in four years. And so what we’ve seen this year is a lot of things being brought forward around constitutional amendments, which have unclear focuses.”
Another issue the student senate faced this semester was attendance. Bisner said the attendance doesn’t seem out of the norm, but there have been a few people who have reached their absence limit and ultimately resigned.
According to Bisner, there is a need for senate to engage the campus in the role they do and credited David Haungs and the judicial council for doing just that.
Bisner stated that the overarching goal of the student senate is to educate senators on policymaking and effective campus politics.
“So going forward, before you bring a resolution, make sure that you’re talking to the administrator,” Bisner said.
This past term Notre Dame’s student senate has done a good job at educating students and getting administrators involved. One thing the senate could improve on for this next semester is using what they have learned to enact explicit change in Notre Dame’s community.