Student senate president reflects on year

Rachel Matuszewski

As the Grand Valley State University student senate wraps up its last meetings before welcoming next year’s senators and cabinet members, senate president Jonathan Bowman recalls the goals that have been accomplished this year and what changes he hopes will continue to be pursued when he leaves his position. 

“I think everyone still has things they might want to work and ideas, but I think (we’re now) trying to pass those things on to people who will be on senate next year,” Bowman said. 

One of the most anticipated policies student senate has been pursuing is the implementation of a fall break. Bowman said that senators have made good progress through the task force’s 44-page analysis of a fall break’s impact and possibility. 

A government conference was also hosted by student senate to discuss state funding. Public universities from across the state, including Saginaw Valley State University, Central Michigan University, Eastern Michigan University, and University of Michigan Flint and Dearborn, took part in the conversation.

“We’re going to be doing a letter drive; we’ve been doing online petitions and trying to advocate for state funding,” Bowman said. 

In addition, more time has been invested in hearing students’ opinions on the topics of education, inclusivity and what they would like to see change.

“We’ve been trying to do a lot of outreach to students more this year, which has always been a challenge,” Bowman said. “It’s kind of hard to talk to students and get students to come to senate or vice versa, so our public relations committee started the new Outreach Research and Engagement surveys. We’ve contacted at least over 700 students on campus this year. We are trying to end up (talking to) 1,000 by the end of the year.” 

Student senate is densely populated by freshmen and sophomores, so senate has created a mentor program to make the transition easier. Younger senators are paired with upperclassmen or senators with a year’s experience. Through this relationship, the questions of what can be accomplished and how have been answered. 

“This year in particular we’ve done a really good job of integrating freshmen, first-year and even transfer students,” Bowman said. “We’ve actually seen a lot of our newer senators jump in and start working on things (right away). A few of our first-year senators are working on the American Sign Language program to see how we can try and get a minor or to get it to count as a B.A. cognate.” 

For Bowman, boxes left unchecked regard inclusivity, campus safety and open education. In terms of inclusivity, working with the Division of Inclusion and Equity and the social justice centers has helped senators inform students about competency. Aside from creating a sexual assault awareness week and holding a town hall meeting last year, Bowman said educating students about the resources available through GVPD, the Title IX coordinator and the University Counseling Center is crucial. 

“I think continuing those types of campus dialogues is really important,” he said.

Welcoming students, informing them on reporting sexual assault and influencing professors to use a cost-friendly textbook-purchasing system will be in the hands of the new student senate. 

“Open access and open education is really important,” Bowman said. “We’ve been trying this year to advocate for professors and faculty members to utilize online textbooks that may be free or cheaper than a physical textbook, or some books are offered in the library on the course reserve. We’re trying to encourage faculty members to use that instead of purchasing $100 books you’re never going to use again.”

As Bowman finishes his last year as a senate member, he recalls the impact he has made on the university, what he has learned and what advice he has for the next generation of senators. 

“It’s been really interesting to become more educated on what’s happening at Grand Valley and having a better understanding of what Grand Valley’s about,” Bowman said. “Student voice matters. There are so many ways faculty, staff and administration are looking for student input on. I think (it’s important to) make sure you never stop advocating for the things students really care about.”