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New president brings changes to Student Senate

October 9, 2008

The UW-River Falls Student Senate welcomed new president Cindy Bendix this year to lead the non-partisan organization, introducing new changes and improvements for the pro-active and respected committee. 

The Student Senate is a 25-member organization that dedicates their time and effort to improving and utilizing the needs and wants of the student body.

According to the UWRF Web site, the Student Senate “will advocate the issues that promote continued quality, excellence and affordability at our school. It is the goal of Senate to provide students with opportunities to improve their lives on academic, personal and social levels; furthermore, we hope to empower students with the resources necessary for them to advance in their education.”

“The Senate is very dedicated to our students,” Bendix said.

Each affiliate elected to the Student Senate belongs to one or more of the six committees that make up the Senate. The individual committees confront issues from athletics and parking to faculty welfare and the University’s budget. 

As each potential budget adjustment or event alteration is brought forth to the Senate, Bendix holds the power of the room at the front of the large square table.

As Bendix begins her fifth meeting as president of the Student Senate, the absence of a typical president or experience goes unnoticed. 

“I think she’s doing a great job,” Nikki Shonoiki, the director of Diversity and Women’s Initiative, said. “She keeps things in order and is on top of everything, which is great.” Bendix, a junior, is majoring in mass communications and has only spent one previous semester on the Student Senate as the director of the Leadership and Development Programming Board and was also involved in the Weeks of Welcome program her freshman year.

Once Bendix was persuaded by a friend to join the Senate, she then realized just how much change the Student Senate can do to better the campus.

“Once I saw the changes we can make, I became so intrigued,” Bendix said.

With the leadership of Bendix, and the respect of the fellow committee members, each weekly meeting, sometimes reaching three hours in length, focuses on the main goals of the Student Senate.

“We actually have several goals. The first goal is to let students know that any problem, any concern brought up to the Senate, we face,” Bendix said. “Any student can make a motion, as long as they have the support of one Senate member.”

Among the many issues the Student Senate faces, student fees are at the top of the list. “How to spend student fees, which are extra fees other than tuition and room and board, is always a concern,” sophomore Sen. Linda Abel said.

Bendix expressed high enthusiasm towards the creation of Ad-Hoc, a new committee that will address the school budget in a whole new manner.

“The Ad-Hoc committee will have four members of the Student Senate and four members of the Leadership Development Programming Board. Ad-Hoc will address the budget, assess and fix issues, fix paper work and look at other Wisconsin schools to see how they deal with their budget,” Bendix said. 

According to Bendix, the LDBP decides how the student fees should be divided among all the organizations, events and clubs on campus. The LDBP then presents the budget plan to the Student Senate during the spring semester, where they either agree or disagree on the plan. With long hours full of conflicting ideas and financial issues, Ad-Hoc will bring the two groups together where they can work as one and create a well-balanced and fair budget for all students.

According to Bendix, the Student Senate faces weekly issues, many being brought to the attention of the Senate on a regular basis.

“The renovation of Cascade and the parking on Cascade is always a problem. Dining Services and the hours for transfers students seems to come up a lot,” Bendix said. In order for the Student Senate to achieve any goal or to make any alterations, there has to be support from not only the campus but from the faculty and staff who approve those changes.

“We have a lot of support, I know I can go to the chancellor at anytime,” Bendix said. According to Bendix, without the support and personal-availability of the chancellor and staff on campus, the Student Senate would not be able to carry out their annual safety walk, the event-packed Family Day, and any other changes made or events sponsored in the past by the Student Senate.

Even though Bendix is new to the position of president of the Student Senate, the long history of the organization has implicated many changes to the life of a student.“Last year was a successful year for us, we had several successful events that brought awareness and education to the campus body which is one of the charges of the committee,” Shonoiki said. “Last year we passed differential tuition which hadn’t been done at our University in a while.”

With the school year in full swing, the Student Senate’s doors are always open, which continues the yearly success of the organization.

“We are always a resource for them,” Bendix said. “It’s the only place the average student can come to for problems.”

According to Abel, the Student Senate will concentrate this year on preserving the excellence of the campus.

“We just hope to maintain the nice quality of life for students,” Abel said. “To go smoothly, justify, and not change, but maintain.”