Student senate reconvenes to talk civic engagement

GVL / Sara Carte
Student Senate members participate in the Student Senate meeting in the Kirkhof center on Jan 14.

Sara Carte

GVL / Sara Carte Student Senate members participate in the Student Senate meeting in the Kirkhof center on Jan 14.

Drew Howard

The Grand Valley State University student senate reconvened for its first official meeting on Jan. 14 in a discussion about civic engagement as well as its goals for the winter semester.

Before tending to official business, the student senate was visited by Melissa Baker-Boosamra, coordinator for the Community Service Learning Center, for a brief talk concerning student involvement in civic engagement.

Boosamra began her presentation by displaying an image of nine popular Marvel characters. When she asked the room who could identify at least six, the majority of senators raised their hands.

But when she followed up this image with another featuring nine United States Supreme Court Justices, the room became much more silent. Only a handful of senators could name three, and just one named all nine.

By drawing the connection between society’s knowledge of make-believe superheroes versus real-life Supreme Court justices, Baker-Boosamra made the point that students aren’t as involved in civic engagement as they could be.

“Climate change, lack of clean water, issues of racism, political finance reform – how many of you feel overwhelmed by all of these issues?” Baker-Boosamra said. “One real value of civic engagement in particular with young people is that when you become informed, you move away from being overwhelmed or apathetic. When you find an issue that matters to you and find ways to be involved, it provides an important channel for your energy.”

Baker-Boosamra concluded her presentation with a list of initiatives to promote student democratic engagement at GVSU, which included a State of the Union watch party, a student civic assembly purposed with providing students the tools to become an organized voice on campus, as well as a voter registration booth open to the public during Campus Life Night 2.0.

“There is a reinvigorated interest in campus organizing and political engagement on college campuses,” Baker-Boosamra said. “It’s a really important time. College campuses are historically a very important place to be educated and organized, and there’s a multitude of issues and opportunities for that type of civic engagement.”

Following Baker-Boosamra’s talk, the student senate revisited some of its primary goals for the winter semester outlined during a meeting on Jan. 11.

Ella Fritzemeier, vice president for public relations, said her committee is working on strategies to promote student senate before its election season kicks into gear.

“This week, the PRC is meeting to come up with general goals to promote voting, talk about elections and get people to run,” Fritzemeier said. “I’m also working on something called an ASK campaign. The idea is to try and ask students what they want for a better GVSU.”

Agreeing with Fritzemeier, president Maddie Cleghorn urged senators to come up with their own “elevator speech” that would summarize to outsiders what the senate is all about.

Andrew Oeffner, vice president for external affairs, reiterated his committee’s goal to build new sidewalks in the Allendale area. Oeffner said the EAC will be working alongside the city of Allendale and GVSU administration to get the job done.

Meanwhile, Sean O’Melia, vice president for Campus Affairs, introduced the idea of creating an evaluation system for resident assistants on campus. During the meeting on Monday, O’Melia said these evaluations would allow for RAs to improve in their position.

Student senate will meet again at 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 21 in the Pere Marquette room, located inside the Kirkhof Center.