Student Senate hosts first annual State of the Student Body address


GVL / Micah Hill

Amy McNeel, Associate Editor

Grand Valley State University’s Student Senate held the first annual State of the Student Body address Thursday, Jan. 16. The event, which was attended by President Philomena Mantella, along with GVSU students, faculty and staff, focused on recent achievements and updates from the Student Senate.

Senate President Eric-John Szczepaniak opened the address with a short speech, in which he detailed the body’s mission to build an engaged and empowered student body, as well as to enact positive, lasting change.

Positive change was a common theme throughout the event, with many Student Senate vice presidents citing new initiatives and successes on campus.

In October 2019, senator Ari Nitzkin sponsored a resolution to create a prayer room on GVSU’s medical campus, while senators McKenzie Gamage and Gavin Marlowe sponsored a resolution to oppose the Grand River Waterway Project. Both resolutions were passed by the Senate at the general assembly meeting Oct. 24.

Other successes include Open Access Week, the Voter Registration Drive and the new free menstrual product initiative.

In his speech, Senate Vice President of External Relations Joel Pagel said that in 2019 GVSU registered the highest number of students to vote on campus than any other Michigan university.

The event also had a focus on mental health. The University’s Counseling Center’s Assistant Director of Prevention and Community Education Melissa Selby-Theut spoke about the importance of actively understanding mental health, as well as the many available resources on campus.

After her speech, the University Arts Chorale performed “Please Stay,” a piece about suicide prevention. Vice President of Senate Resources Hannah Benoit followed up the performance with her own address about mental health.

Benoit said GVSU serves a higher number of students for counseling than most other Michigan Universities. She also said that when GVSU students are given the resources to succeed, it is evident that they can and do.

To wrap up the address, senators spoke about upcoming events and important resources, such as the “my name” program, Martin Luther King Jr. Week and the Reach Higher Together initiative.

President Szczepaniak closed the event with a reminder that Student Senate is meant to serve the student body. If you have any concerns or comments for the Senate, you can attend general assembly meetings, which are held each Thursday at 4:30 p.m. in the Kirkhof Center Pere Marquette room 2204.