Creating transparency with student senate

GVL / Luke Holmes - Student Senate held their first meeting of the year in the Pere Marquette Room Thursday, Sep. 1, 2016.

Luke Holmes

GVL / Luke Holmes – Student Senate held their first meeting of the year in the Pere Marquette Room Thursday, Sep. 1, 2016.

Jess Hodge

Every Thursday at 4:30 p.m., student senate President Ella Fritzemeier bangs her gavel to indicate the start of the student senate general assembly. Eight vice presidents sit to her left and right and 50 senators are seated in front of her. But the gallery, meant for people from the public to sit, stays mostly empty.

The 50 student senators are responsible for representing the other 25,000 GVSU students. But what does student senate do? What do they work on? How are they involved on campus?

Fritzemeier was appointed as student senate’s president in April and has been working to create a relationship between the student body and student senate since her first day as president. Part of fostering this relationship is helping GVSU students understand what the governing body does and what they are working on throughout the year.

To help facilitate that knowledge and the transfer of information from senate to student, a few changes have been made in the way student senate provides updates and reports.

One big change for this semester is the way the finance committee is releasing reports. Members of the finance committee are responsible for going to appropriations funding boards, where student organizations have the opportunity to request money from the general budget. The money can be for events, trips, promotions or other things for that organization.

In an effort to create transparency, the finance committee now provides a synopsis of each appropriation funding board meeting, which is then published in each Thursday issue of the Lanthorn. Rachel Travis, vice president for the finance committee, spearheaded the idea to publish specific numbers and data from finance reports. This is so people will know how much each organization requested, how much they received and what the money will be used toward.

“I think Rachel (Travis), specifically with finance, has been doing a really great job of transparency,” Fritzemeier said. “They’re making some more documents about (the process) to make it more clear because there’s still just a lot of discrepancy and confusion about how to request funds or what will and will not get approved.”

In addition to making finance and funding numbers available to students, Fritzemeier also said they are keeping up on social media better than they were last year. She said they have a bigger presence and have done well at tweeting about the events happening on campus.

Fritzemeier also said the senate is trying to be both proactive and reactive to not only things happening on campus, but also national events.

Working with other student organizations on a variety of projects and events has also helped student senate get its name out to the GVSU community. This comes in the form of publishing other groups’ work or going to their events.

“Supporting other organizations with our social media is helping our transparency a lot to show that we’re not this ‘other body,'” Fritzemeier said. “We support all students and thus all student organizations.”