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Letter to the editor

Senate proud of first semester work

December 13, 2012

This is in response to the Editorial printed in last week’s Student Voice. The Executive Committee of Student Senate feels this editorial was extremely misleading.

We are here for the students, and our No. 1 concern is making sure the student voice is heard. If any student has any issue they would like resolved, we want them to contact us. Student Senate can be contacted via email, stopping in the Senate Office in the Involvement Center or leaving us a letter in the appropriate mailbox (located in the University Center).

My vision for the Senate this semester was to build back its reputation and work on internal issues, so future Senates are able to operate effectively.  Unfortunately, the internal work that has been done was not necessarily highlighted in our minutes or meetings.

The Facilities and Fees Board (F & F) has been vigorously working with the vice-chancellor of Student Affairs and other UW-Schools to update documents and refine the F & F process. The chancellor, Chair Dominic Riel, and I recently signed a new Process for the Review of Non-allocable Fees document that has not been updated in four years; the updates and additions to this document improves the previously lengthy and messy non-allocable fee process, reflects committees and procedures already in practice, and provides for more student input and feedback through the budget process.

In addition, our governing documents needed updating and clarification. More specifically, Vice President Matthew Hobbs and Ethics Chair Samuel Tauchen introduced a bylaw change to our demerit system. The new system distributes the responsibility of issuing demerits among many different positions in Senate instead of the vice president having the only and final say on demerits.

Recently, a Senate Hours Policy passed outlining what is acceptable as Senate Hours. The bylaw change and Senate Hours Policy holds senators to a higher standard and continues to hold senators responsible for their actions.

The Allocable Fee Appropriations Board (AFAB) has also been hard at work with budgeting, clarifying the budgeting process, and looking at making changes for the future.

The Student Affairs and Academic Services Committee (SAAS) has also accomplished many things this year; one of the biggest accomplishments is the student survey sent out earlier in the semester. SAAS worked hard at promoting and putting valuable questions into this survey, and as a result, the survey had 750 + respondents. In previous years, this survey had a turn out of maybe 200 students, and SAAS is now working on interpreting the results and coming forward with solutions to issues and concerns outlined by the survey. SAAS is also working on getting a student discount card to local businesses; this card will be distributed in the spring.

Our biggest accomplishment this year was voter registration. From September to November, the Senate was hard at work with registering students and distributing voter information. Five senators took a two-hour class to become registration deputies in order to register students. Senate tabled for two and a half weeks in the UC as well as went to hall meetings to register students to vote, and the most recent Student Representatives meeting with the other UW System Senate presidents and vice presidents, we found out that we registered more voters than many other campuses in our system (about 200 students). On voting day, the Legislative Affairs Committee had an informational board of all candidates and their platforms on the first floor of the UC. Also, two members of the Senate shuttled student voters 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. to the high school.

As stated in the Student Voice article written by Brittany Flatten last week, “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 be more effective” (page 3). From everything listed above, one can conclude Senate accomplished just that and much more.

Another issue in the Editorial I would like to speak on is the idea of purchasing Senate polo shirts. The Senate has yet to vote on whether or not to purchase these shirts, and as the motion currently reads, student senators will have to pay for the shirts if they chose to keep them. As from discussion of the introductory motion, the intent of these shirts is to increase Senate’s approachability, visibility and professionalism.

This Editorial also downgraded the importance of committee appointments. Our advisor, Paul Shepherd, has stated to me on several different occasions that this Senate has made more appointment motions and has had more student involvement than any other Senate he has seen in his time here at UW-River Falls. With appointment motions, we increase the student voice across all aspects of campus and raise student awareness of important issues on campus.

The Senate is not perfect; there are definitely weaknesses and improvements to be made. My goal for this semester was to make Senate more visible, let students know we are here for them, and mend the many ties that were broken from previous Senates. My plan for this year was work internally in the fall and externally in the spring.

I apologize if students feel their Senate has been sitting idle all semester, but if anyone were to do a little more than just read the posted minutes, they would see much more is happening.  Again, if any student has concerns or frustrations with any aspect of campus, please, contact us via email (emails are posted in the Senate Office), our Facebook page, or simply by stopping in the Senate Office.

Bobbi O’Brien
Student Senate President