On a normal day, the Grand Valley State University student senate is led by the president, the executive vice president and seven vice presidents, who all chair their respective committees.
However, following a sudden, mid-year resignation, the seat for the vice president of the diversity affairs committee (DAC) has sat empty for the past two weeks.
During their meeting Thursday, Feb. 9, the senate body heard nominations, a speech and voted on whom to fill the spot. Maddie Rhoades, a senator from DAC, was voted in as the new vice president of DAC.
“Every member of DAC has fully shared the same passion of advocating and working to make sure that those who have systematically been left behind and face discrimination both in the educational system and in life have an opportunity,” Rhoades said in her speech.
Rhoades was not the only candidate to run. Brianna Pannell was also nominated as a candidate during the senate’s general assembly meeting last week.
Each candidate was allowed a five-minute statement, 15 minutes or five questions for senators to ask the nominees questions and then 10 minutes for open discussion.
Rhoades opened up her speech with a story of Martin Luther King Jr. she said inspired her and reminded her of the work she hopes to accomplish on senate.
“I feel like the past few months have been a very challenging time,” she said. “And its during those periods that it really reminds me that even though we are continuously struck down in our work, that we need to get up and continue to push past it and so I really carried that in my heart.”
However, during her speech, Pannell threw her support behind Rhoades as a candidate and subsequently withdrew her candidacy in running for the vice president position.
“Senator Rhoades, she has time, she has diligence, the perseverance and determination to be the best vice president for diversity affairs,” Pannell said. “Her heart is so sincere (and) she always stays positive.”
Rhoades was allowed to answer five questions before the body would discuss and vote “yes” or “no confidence.”
Senator Kevin Chui asked Rhoades what other organizations, besides student senate, she was involved in as to get a sense of her background.
Rhoades is a member of Eyes Wide Open, the interfaith club on campus and women’s center.
Senator Ethan Schafer asked Rhoades a seemingly simple question: “Why do you want to be VP of DAC?”
Rhoades responded by saying she believes what DAC stands for is something that is important and necessary to have on GVSU’s campus.
Rhoades admitted it was hard to run against Pannell, and said any member of DAC could step up and take on the role as vice president. But, the one thing Rhoades said set her apart was the experience she has not only as a senator, but on as a member of DAC.
“DAC needs someone to lead them, someone in their corner that knows how to function and work this system,” she said, “so that we are able to do as much as we can for the student body with the limited time each one of is giving as a Laker.”