Student Senate focuses on representation, seeks student involvement

GVL / Eric Coulter
Student Senate President Jack Iott

Eric Coulter

GVL / Eric Coulter Student Senate President Jack Iott

Sarah Hillenbrand

For the Grand Valley State University Student Senate, student voice is of upmost priority.
Jack Iott, president of the Student Senate, said this year the senate’s main focus will be on representing all demographics across GVSU’s campuses.

“That is something that myself, and the cabinet as a whole, are working on outside our committees,” Iott said. “We want to understand the different demographics that feel that they need to be represented more and see how we can do that.”

The priority follows a lengthy process that has been in the works with senators and administration for the last year; a move to include a new graduate student arm of the already existing student senate. Iott said that he and the other senators will work hard to “adjust Student Senate to make it fit all students.”

Though inclusion is the main focus, the Student Senate has a long list of other goals and priorities ultimately leading up to the passing of existing resolutions and the drafting of new ones.
“As a whole, the Student Senate works on countless smaller projects that result in resolutions,” said Kathleen Carlson, vice president of the educational affairs committee. “These resolutions are typically researched and written by a group of passionate and knowledgeable senators and are voted on by the entire body.”

Carlson said resolutions are significant because they more formally propose the wants and needs of the student body, who can effect change at the university. “Because the body is made up of an extremely diverse group of students, all of whom are elected by their peers, resolutions serve as a representation of the voice of the entire student body here at GVSU, and are taken very seriously by staff and administrators,” she said.

Among the resolutions being drafted this year is one to develop an ROTC program at GVSU, another to add sidewalks around campus and a third to add a fall break similar to spring break. Right now, the senate’s Educational Affairs Committee is working out the final logistics of making a fall break a reality on GVSU’s campus, hoping that it will take effect for the 2013-2014 academic year. “The project has been in the works for nearly three years now and is finally coming into the closing stages where we will begin to see some action,” Carlson said.

With the input of a number of new members this fall, the Student Senate hopes it will see fresh perspectives and new ideas for changes the group can help make on campus. “From last year to this year, we have a very new senate,” said Lindsay Viviano, vice president of the public relations committee. “(There are) a lot of new faces, but also many returning, which is very exciting.”
However, the Student Senate is still seeking external involvement from student constituents, too, in the form of opinions and questions.

“We have talked extensively about how to get senate’s name out to the student body so they can come to senate as a resource and realize if they don’t like something on campus, or want to start something new, they can use the senate as a tool to get there,” said Meagan Wolschon, vice president of the senate resource committee. Carlson agreed that more student involvement would be ideal.

“As a vice president on senate, it pains me to know that there are students who have absolutely no knowledge about the Student Senate and what we do,” she said. “We are working to make the voice of the students heard, so any and all input from students is welcome at our meetings.”
The Student Senate has been working on ideas to get students to stop by its meetings and hear what is going on within the government.

“I would really like to see students coming to general assembly and asking questions or bringing up issues they feel need to be addressed,” Wolschon said. “Walking around campus I hear so many constructive opinions, I would love it if they were able to be more than just words between friends and the catalyst to change our university.”
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