Student Senate passes university committee’s resolution

Sarah Hillenbrand

Grand Valley State University’s Student Senate and Graduate Student Association have been working together during this academic year and in years past to try to find a way to increase the graduate student voice. At last week’s Student Senate meeting, the resolution seeking more senate seats on university committees, with graduate students being a priority to fill the seats, was passed after much discussion and debating among the senators.

“The passing of the resolution represents a step forward,” said Austin Dean, president of GSA. “Without it, the GSA’s hands were tied, but with it we can begin to improve the current political deadlock between the groups. It will take time to realize the full impact of the resolution, but I believe it will force the Student Senate and the GSA to consider each other’s objectives more closely.”

Dean said passing the resolution is a step in the right direction, but the increased number of seats still needs to be passed by the university committees. Until the committees also agree to Student Senate’s resolution, the first step to increase graduate student representation isn’t complete.
“The resolution is a welcomed piece of the puzzle, but now the process of acquiring seats actually begins,” Dean said. “Faculty and staff must now approve of adding additional seats on their governance committees/councils. When these seats are finally acquired, we will begin to fill them with appropriate students. Having our graduate students represented in these governing bodies is critical. For the first time in our university’s history, the graduate student body will be able to voice its opinions and concerns directly.”

Tendo Lukwago, executive vice president of Student Senate and writer of the resolution, said he hopes passing this resolution will eventually lead to graduate students getting involved in Student Senate. Before getting to the point of having graduate students become elected senators though, there are still other obstacles to overcome with the contrasting lives of graduate and undergraduate students.

“Graduate students are a large demographic of students that offer a lot to our campus,” Lukwago said. “It’s great that they are receiving more outlets to improve the graduate programs at GVSU, but it’s not enough that they only sit on university committees. Because graduate students have already gone through their undergraduate programs—whether at Grand Valley or another university—I think it’s vitally important to have them voice any input that may be beneficial to their 21,317 undergraduate peers. I would like to see them help shape and better the Grand Valley experience for undergraduates and graduates alike.”

With the way Student Senate is currently run though, Dean said he did not see graduate students joining.

“The resolution has opened up communication channels in a profound way,” he said. “That being said, we are far way from having graduate students run for elected positions within Student Senate. The nature and time constraints associated with a student senator’s work is not conducive to graduate students at this university. For this reason, creative solutions are needed to increase the student voice through other means. The resolution to place grad students on standing committees/councils is one such avenue.”

While there is still more progress to be had, both Lukwago and Dean said the progress made this year has been more than any other. Lukwago said that along with this resolution being passed to increase graduate student voice, senate also increased funding for the graduate programs and organizations through the Student Life Allocation Board.

“Change is always difficult, but it must be had,” Dean said. “I believe that the GSA has come leaps and bounds this year. We have developed infrastructure that has never existed, and have provided more programming opportunities for graduate students than ever before.”
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