How to make student government work for you

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Senators discuss everything from budget allocations to religious life concerns during their weekly meetings. Photo by Anthony Garnier.

On the evening of Thursday, Oct. 27, a group of students in matching blue blazers sat in a circle in Gorman E to discuss how to improve the University of Dallas, as they have every Thursday this semester.

The blazers were a departure from their traditional blue polos and lent a professional, if eerie, atmosphere to the proceedings, which were conducted with the sharpness only “Robert’s Rules of Order” can provide.

Over the course of this meeting, they discussed everything from the lack of water fountains in Clark Hall, to the budgets for Venture Crew and the UD Journal of Science, to recent student concerns with the Office of Student Affairs (OSA).

These are the topics all UD students complain about when they have the rare chance to gather into large, non-academic groups.

The difference is that these are the people with the power to make changes.

This was a meeting of the Senate, one of the branches of Student Government (SG), comprised of students who were elected by their classes and residence halls to represent the student body.

SG’s three branches include the Executive Council, the Senate and Student Programming at the UD (SPUD).

While SG meetings are, and always have been, open to the public, all proposals need to go through the proper chain of command.

“Students approach administrators or staff or faculty members with their concerns,” Student Government Secretary Annamica Reding said. “That’s not the appropriate way to communicate your concerns. Student Government, and the Senate especially, is here for students to tell their concerns to their senators, senators tell the Executive Council, and the Executive Council, if need be approach any staff, faculty or administrator.”

Concerns from senators go to the Executive Council for deliberation; depending on the nature of the proposal the concerns can be addressed immediately or taken to the administration.

Student Body President Karmina Martinez meets with Dr. John Plotts on a biweekly basis to discuss student concerns.

Occasionally, student concerns may also go through Faculty Advisor Catherine Duplant.

“It’s all about how you present a concern,” Student Body Vice President Lili Serna said. “You have to deliver it well and you have to respect them.”

Serna added that Martinez does an excellent job of presenting these concerns and that the administration has been very open to working with them.

There are a total of 14 Senate committees and seven SPUD committees, which must have at least one member and an SG member as the chair.

Non-SG students are permitted to participate in committees.

Committees are involved in activities ranging from seminarian outreach to event planning and athletic support, but the work of the Student Concerns Committee (SCC) has the most immediate influence on the general student body.

Committee Chair Michael Fazi, a junior, has been in SG all three years of his UD career. In that time, he believes its focus on listening to the students has improved.

One way in which this is done is through SG on the Mall. On Fridays, Senators hear concerns from students as well as conduct polls.

Recently, the Religious Concerns subdivision conducted a poll about whether students would like to have bells rung during the consecration at The Church of the Incarnation.

One was against, 69 were in favor and four responded that it did not concern them.

Fazi also created an online form for the SCC under the SG portal on CrusaderConnect.

Another way in which this committee is seeking to hear the concerns of students is through Town Hall meetings.

These began last fall as an opportunity for students to voice their thoughts about the campus concealed carry law and continued into the spring.

Fazi is glad they are returning this year, this time to address general concerns. The Town Halls will be organized by class and run by class and hall representatives.

A portion of the SCC is dedicated to helping the senators plan their Town Halls and helping to narrow down the topics of discussion.

After the end of each Town Hall, there will be a brief exit survey so that senators are able to have feedback for future meetings.

Another subdivision of the SCC is the Campus Improvements Committee.

Co-chaired by sophomores Alison Pettyjohn and Elisa Ron, this committee is responsible for the raised temperatures in Gorman and the cafeteria.

The concerns about the cold temperatures in Gorman came to light through SG on the Mall as well as from the SCC meetings themselves.

Pettyjohn attends the meetings on Wednesday evenings in SB Hall and finds concerns which could be delegated to her committee.

At the meeting on Oct. 27, Reding proposed a new committee for publicizing the work done by SG, specifically the Senate.

Fazi and Pettyjohn agree that this would be a welcome way to increase student awareness.

“I think that a publicity committee would be really good so that students can become more aware of what it is that the Senate is doing and that they can get involved too,” Pettyjohn said. “I feel like a lot of people don’t know that they can come to the meetings, they can join a Senate committee. All students have the ability to do those sorts of things.”

All Senate meeting hours and budget information are available on CrusaderConnect.

 

Junior Town Hall: Nov. 8, 6:30 p.m. in Gorman C
Senior Town Hall: Nov. 15, 7 p.m. in Gorman B
Freshmen Town Hall: Nov. 16, 5:30 p.m. in Gorman A

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