The primarily new Student Associate Senate will undergo intense training in the coming weeks to prepare for its transition in April.
Although senators typically have some training, Anyah Dembling, executive vice president-elect, said she plans to make the process more formalized this year. As EVP, Dembling is responsible for leading the Senate.
“I think it’s going to be interesting,” Dembling said of the transition period, which lasts until April 29. “I can try to bring back things that I didn’t know before (beginning a Senate term).”
Dembling said she would train the senators in parliamentary procedure, duties of the four standing committees – Student Life, Academic Affairs, Finance and Rules – and how the SA financial process works. During the transition period, senators will split into committees and elect chairs.
Dembling said there are no returning members from the Finance or Rules committees, which play an instrumental role in the Senate and deal with student group allocations and amendments to SA bylaws. Senators will also break ties for undergraduate senators in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences graduate seat, and the Graduate School of Education and Human Development.
Returning senators said they looking forward to assisting Dembling with training new members of the body.
“I’m hoping to reach out to the other CCAS senators,” said Sen. Ben Traverse (U-CCAS). “It’s all about connection and communication.”
Dembling said her goals for the year include following up on legislation and involving more students with the SA. She said she plans to hold leadership meetings for student groups and address issues that affect students’ daily lives.
“I think that’s a first step in reaching out to different students,” she said.
This year, Traverse, along with former EVP candidate Asher Corson, sponsored a series of legislation calling for reform within the Senate.
“I want to set a precedent of us being a proactive senate by reintroducing the ethics package right off the bat,” Traverse said.
Some new senators said they would like to see students respect the SA by improving the organization’s reputation and credibility.
Senator-elect Morgan Corr (U-CCAS) said he would like to see more students involved with the SA.
“The SA in general has had a negative connotation in the eyes of students,” he said. “I want to increase the visibility and awareness of senate meetings.”
Corr said he is disappointed that students voted against the student fee referendum a few weeks ago. The referendum would have doubled the fee students pay to the SA to $2 per credit hour up to 15 credit hours. The SA’s revenue would have doubled to almost $1 million from about $470,000.
“I thought the referendum would pass,” Corr said. “A big concern is a lack of money. We have more and more new activities and there are so many groups which are drastically under-funded.”
Senator-elect Eli Mazour (U-SEAS) said he wants to bring “recognition to the engineering school” by obtaining the same funding for engineering student groups as Law School student groups.
The Student Bar Association received a $26,500 initial allocation this fall, while the Engineer’s Council got $5,300.
“The SA should concentrate on one specific thing – improving student life and increasing student group funding,” Mazour said. “I will seek (continuing senators’) advice and opinion.”
Senator-elect Peter Feldman (U-At-Large) said he is exploring ideas such as letting student groups have their own GWorld card and establishing a student-faculty committee to review SA election reform. Feldman also said he would like to create a Code of Conduct for Student Judicial Services, which he said would help in University-Greek-letter group relations.
“We need to take our work in the Senate more seriously and ourselves as senators less seriously,” he said. “I’ve been meeting with my fellow senators-elect and current senators and we will hit the ground running.”
Some graduate senators said they are focusing on getting graduate students more involved in University life.
“I’m hoping to bridge the gap and get the medical school involved in the University as a whole,” said Senator-elect Matthew Tuck (G-SMHS). “(The SA senators) act like they’re on the Hill. I admire that. I want to be a part of that.”
Tuck said he hopes to repeat the “Sexpo” success from last year, when the School of Medicine and Health Sciences organized a day-long exposition on sexual health. He also said he would like to continue SA President Kris Hart’s “Gradlife” initiative, which offers programming events, such as a CNN “Crossfire” night, for graduate students.
-Elizabeth Chernow contributed to this report.