Following elections two weeks ago, Student Senate is hard at work.
Last week was the group’s first meeting with both the cabinet at-large representatives. The newly elected at-large reps include seniors Peter Meyer-Reimer and Halle Steingass, and sophomores Danielle Plank, Valentin Calvillo and Reena Ramos.
New members join the cabinet, who were elected last spring. Senior Ben Shelly continues in his fourth year on Student Senate, where he now serves as president. Juniors Zach Zimmerman and Laura Miller serve as vice-president and secretary respectively, while the sophomores on Senate include Achieng Agutu, vice-president of marketing, and Deeksha Pagar, treasurer.
Of the 10, only Shelly and Miller have served on Senate in the past.
Though the group has only met together once so far, they have a number of initiatives underway.
According to Shelly, “Senate’s hit the ground running with a number of initiatives that will ideally provide lasting transparency between administration and the student body, as well move the direction of the college towards a more diverse representation in administration, staff and faculty.”
Plank is excited to serve on Senate “not only to represent my own ideas but also to serve as a voice for [her] peers.” She is especially interested in the work that Senate plans to pursue with regards to GC’s recycling system. “We have several representatives that are very passionate about recycling, and I am eager to see Senate tackle this issue together,” she said.
Passion seems to extend beyond recycling for this particular group of individuals. Agutu observes that “the people on Senate are the most passionate humans I have ever met. They know what they want and they want what they know.”
One challenge that Senate faces is their relationship with GC administration. The way Meyer-Reimer sees things, “Administration is a necessarily conservative force, inert because their paychecks are tied to keeping the status quo.” His goal for this year’s Senate is “enabling the student body to leverage power over the administration.”
Meyer-Reimer also articulates his apprehension about “the possibility that the student body just won’t care, and that all the work that we put into creating structures that give them power over the administration won’t be taken advantage of for apathy on their part.”
According to Miller, initiatives already in process include “pressuring administration to hire more people of color, seeking student representation on the President’s Council, increasing Senate transparency as well as administrative transparency, putting suggestion boxes and Senate bulletin boards around campus, forming a committee to meet with Westlawn Dining Hall staff, installing a bidet in one of the connector bathrooms, getting computers for the apartments, being a part of an intercultural leadership team with Provost Ken Newbold, and making more single-stall restrooms gender-neutral.”
In addition to the apparent high level of productivity, Senate meetings also foster a “friendly and open environment” according to Calvillo. Agutu adds, however, that “we end up talking about some really heavy topics and sometimes people get really stressed out.”
Weekly meetings, which take place every Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. in AD20, are open to the public.