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Senate spearheads changes to both campus, state bylaws

October 10, 2013

The UW-River Falls Student Senate has stepped forward as a major player in the UW Student Representatives body.

The Student Reps has representatives from each of the 26 UW System schools. Thirteen of the schools in the UW System are four-year universities, and 13 are two-year schools. Senate Vice President Anthony Sumnicht said that the representation from both the two-year and four-year schools was very similar.

“At our last meeting it was close to 50/50 which was surprising, we didn’t expect that many two-years to show up,” Sumnicht said. “Every school is represented on student reps. Whether the school chooses to attend is up to that school. Every school counts toward quorum, we need at least 14 of the schools to meet to hold the meetings.”

The Student Reps held its first meeting of the school year at UWRF on Friday, Oct. 4, and Saturday, Oct. 5. At the meeting, Sumnicht was named chair of Student Reps.

“I think it really puts UWRF on the map. There’s an old adage in the system that the further you are away from Madison the less people know about you,” said Director of Student Life Paul Shepherd, who also serves as Senate’s advisor. “It’s nice to be able to get some recognition on a state-wide level, and I think it’s well deserved, not only this year, but past years as well UWRF student leaders have done a lot to help get Student Reps where they are.”

After the funding for the United Council was cut this past spring, the stage is set for Student Reps to take on a larger roll in the state.

“Now that we have a structured Student Reps group, when the UW System and the Board of Regents wants to hear from a representative body of students, Student Reps is the place they should go,” Shepherd said. “These are folks that are in current leadership positions on their own campus.”

Student Reps will be trying to work in conjunction with United Council on issues which both bodies may try to tackle.

“We’re not just going to kick United Council out of everything, it’s still relevant right now. We will work with them to make sure we are both not trying to tackle the same issues. As two separate organizations, we can get more accomplished working in unison than we can working apart, at this time,” Sumnicht said.

Sumnicht also spearheaded motions to change Student Reps’ constitution, as well as introduce a new set of bylaws. Both motions were passed unanimously.

“Last year I went to the last meeting of the UW System Student Representatives, and I saw it as a relatively disorganized group. It was disorganized and had no voice at the state level,” Sumnicht said. “We have already taken large steps to organize ourselves; creating a whole executive committee, creating new positions and passing bylaws so we will be much more organized this year.”

As chair, Sumnicht is in charge of filling committees which Student Reps is in charge of. One example is the Inter-Governmental Relations (IGR) committee. According to Sumnicht, this committee is in charge of finding out issues which are important to students around the UW System. Sumnicht said that the issues brought forth by IGR will be the ones which Student Reps will aim to tackle first. Senator Matthew Hobbs was appointed to serve on this committee.

“[The committee] will be working on identifying the issues which it thinks Student Reps should address this year. I’m looking forward to them coming up with great ideas and identifying lots of issues that we want to tackle,” Sumnicht said.

In addition to helping push through the changes to Student Reps, Sumnicht also penned and introduced a motion to Senate to change its bylaws.

“The main reason for starting the project on the bylaws was to clarify items. Things were duplicated, so the main reason for the motion was to get rid of all those things,” Sumnicht said. “Another reason was to update our ethics process, based on the problems Senate had last year with the process. It was time to update and make it clear on how a whole process should handle ethical complaints and issues.”

Shepherd also said that, while Senate makes small changes to the bylaws every year, this year’s changes have been much more substantial.

“Every year there has been some sort of change to the bylaws. What Senate passed was probably on the higher end of change, while there wasn’t much that changed the intent of the bylaws,” Shepherd said. “I think clarifying how the Senate position which represent the Greek community,  diversity and athletics is really good. In the past it was a little too informal, now there is a more formal process for how that student gets seated.”

Senate meets at 7 p.m., on Tuesdays, in the Willow River Room of the University Center.