With the fall semester drawing to a close, Student Senate looks toward the spring semester and evaluates what has been accomplished thus far and what needs to be improved going forward.
Senate President Bobbi O’Brien voiced some specific goals for Senate at the beginning of her term. Improving communication between the Senate and students, making Senate more visible on campus, keeping tuition low and taking a close look at any segregated fee increases were of the most importance to her.
O’Brien said that she believes significant strides have been made toward reaching the goal of making Senate more visible on campus. She noted that many of the Senators are involved in different organizations on campus, which gives them a great opportunity to reach out to a significant number of students. Senators are also attending meetings, serving on outside committees and participating in outreach events that all help to make students more aware of Senate.
“I really feel like we have reached a much larger population of the students than we have in the past. Students are noticing us and are caring more and realizing that we are here to represent them.”
One main effort to make students aware of Senate was the Senate’s Night Out event that was held on Nov. 14. About 100 students attended the event, which is more than any similar event has seen in previous years, according to Senate Vice President Matthew Hobbs.
UW-River Falls senior Emily Kessler has noticed Senate more this year than in previous years here at UWRF.
“I read about the Senate’s Night Out event and the student senators helped me to get registered to vote this semester, so I have definitely noticed Student Senate a lot more recently and I hope it continues to reach out to students.”
A recent survey was conducted by the Senate in which the question, “Are you aware that Student Senate meetings are held every Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Willow River Room?” was asked. The number of students who replied “yes” was 175 while there were 517 students who answered “no.”
This semester, Senate had a strong focus on the internal structure, policies and bylaws of the body in order to make processes smoother and to really help Senate to be more effective. O’Brien said that the focus will definitely be external for next semester looking at more campus and student related issues.
During the spring semester, Senate will discuss and vote on a proposed budget put forth by the Allocable Fees and Appropriations Board (AFAB), review any proposed segregated fee increases in the non-allocable budget process and have many other motions on the agendas to discuss and vote upon.
“Student Senate has been really proactive in working with the reserve accounts, making organizations aware of the budget processes and many other things and that is really going to be an asset to them going into the spring semester,” said Student Senate Advisor Paul Shepherd.
Shepherd said that he believes O’Brien has implemented a more accessible tone to Senate and that her leadership style is really open and she is very approachable and that has been really good for Senate this semester.
He said that both O’Brien and Hobbs take their positions seriously and are both effective leaders that really help to engage the other senators and get them involved.
One thing that O’Brien said may be a weakness of this Senate is that it is very new. Many of the senators are serving in positions for the first time and there is a lot that has to be learned.
“Next semester will be stronger as it takes a little time for the Senate to learn and grow together. With a full semester under our belts we now have a better understanding and can more effectively represent the students.”