Updated: April 15, 2019 at 7:13 p.m.
Student Association leaders are encouraging incoming SA senators to perfect their legislation-writing before starting their terms through workshops.
SA Sen. Amy Martin, ESIA-U and the executive vice president-elect, is hosting three workshops this month to teach senator-elects how to write legislation, help them comprehend the SA’s governing documents and learn how to write policy proposals. Incoming SA senators said the workshops have helped them grasp the SA’s operations before they officially take on their role, giving them more confidence to participate in SA Senate meetings and propose legislation.
“I am just trying to give them the tools now to hit the ground running and work on these kinds of projects and not feel like they don’t know where to start or not feel like they don’t know what are the best options available to them,” Martin said.
She said each workshop lasts about an hour, starting with a slideshow presentation and ending with a question-and-answer session. She said each presentation will be posted in the SA Google Drive for senators to review.
The first workshop, held April 7, reviewed sections of the SA’s three governing documents – the constitution, the charter and the bylaws. Martin said she taught 10 SA senator-elects where to look in each document for information on amending a bill and other senate rules.
She said the workshops will help senators contextualize and discuss the information in the governing documents during senate meetings, which past senators have struggled to do.
“Everyone had the passion, but they didn’t have the tools, and they also didn’t feel like there was necessarily somebody they could ask about these tools,” Martin said.
During the second session, held Sunday, Martin explained the differences between a resolution, a bill and a referendum to help clarify what role each piece of legislation serves.
A bill makes a tangible change to the SA bylaws, while a resolution encourages the University or students to enact change. A bill can also propose a referendum, a question posed to the entire student body.
“It’s important to set expectations ahead of time that legislation needs to be of a certain quality in order for it to be passed because we are needing to reflect the intention of our work and also just the seriousness with which we take our roles,” Martin said.
The third seminar on April 28 will focus on ways to write policy reports, which SA leaders often present to administrators throughout the year. She said the training will teach senators how to professionally communicate with students and officials to advocate for policy changes.
Sophomore Howard Brookins, a senator-elect who will serve as an undergraduate at-large, said learning the breakdown of governing documents and training to write effective legislation in the workshops will prepare him to be a “well-informed senator.”
“Those extra Sundays that we’re in the seminars really help to build community among the SA so that everybody knows what’s going on and everybody’s learning the same material,” Brookins said.
SA Sen. George Glass, U-at-Large, who will return to the same role next year, said he attended the first workshop to support Martin and push senator-elects to work with one another to write legislation.
Glass said he hopes the training will encourage senators to pass more legislation in the fall than this year’s senate put forth in its first semester. Last fall, the senate passed four pieces of legislation – the fewest in at least four years.
“Getting everyone educated on how to write them properly, then we’ll have more people proposing more legislation and getting more stuff done because I think part of the reason why there wasn’t as much legislation written this year is because most people didn’t know how to do that,” he said.
Freshman Louie Kahn, a senator-elect who will represent the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, said the sessions taught him about the breakdown of the bylaws. Knowing that the document is separated into six sections will allow him to interpret and reference the SA’s governing documents at meetings, he said.
“Having a great level of understanding prior to assuming the role is the most effective way to do things, so I am looking forward to going to more workshops and I hope that senators do the same,” Kahn said.
Alisa Kingsbury, Nia Lartey, Lizzie Mintz and Gabby Pino contributed reporting.
This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that the first workshop was held on April 8. The workshop was held on April 7. We regret this error.