Student Senate: What they do and why you should care

The Bates Meeting Room where senate meets every Thursday from 6-8p PM. Photo by Hugh Thornhill '14

The Bates Meeting Room where senate meets every Thursday from 6-8p PM. Photo by Hugh Thornhill '14

Student Senate is misunderstood by a lot of students on campus. Much of the student body is unsure or simply apathetic about what goes on during senate meetings; some students do not even realize that their own friends are on the senate, and even less so what their friends do on senate.

Students’ apathy and unawareness of the senate’s presence on campus creates a low voter turnout for senate elections. This makes senate elections tricky because a candidate needs at least 20 votes to even qualify for election, even if the candidate is running unopposed. While this year has had a very high rate of voters for the first round of elections, subsequent elections tend to have fewer and fewer people voting. Senate Chair Kathryn Glover (‘15) said that because there are usually at least two or sometimes three elections every year, students stop caring after a certain point.

According to Glover, “Students don’t think, ‘Oh, I’m electing students to serve or do something for me.’ If it seems like seats aren’t getting filled, students then are less enthusiastic to elect people to sit in those seats.”

Senate Parliamentarian Rachel Molland (‘15) also pointed out that many students do not even open the emails sent out that describe what happens within senate, meaning many people are unaware that there even are elections, or that the senate is doing anything that could be important for the student body. This is problematic, especially when you consider how the senate impacts several aspects of campus life.

One of the important functions of the senate is that they review and approve proposed budgets of all the student spaces, clubs, and events on campus. If students want to receive funds for an event that they are hosting or for an established club on campus, they have to get it approved by the senate first. A lot of time and effort goes into determining these budgets, and it is important for students to be aware of the fact that students can receive funding for such events, publications and certain spaces on campus from the senate as long as it is open to all students.

Budgets are not the only topic of discussion at Senate meetings; these meetings also serve discussion and debate about issues affecting the student body. Recently, for example, senators have been voicing their concerns with the new smoking policy. Many of the people on the senate feel that the smoking ban that will go into effect next year on campus is not a viable solution, especially since many students may not adhere to the new policy. Another issue senate discussed at length during an October meeting was the complaints about AVI’s service on campus. Contamination of vegetarian and vegan food when workers had previously been handling meat products, as well as rising prices of food in the Pub were a few examples of what attendees discussed. If the senators feel that there is enough of a concern about these types of issues, then they can write a formal letter to the administration outlining questions and concerns.

Senators’ opinions are not the only ones that can be heard during these meetings. Anyone can sit in on the meetings and voice their views on an issue being discussed during a meeting, and they can contact the senate ahead of time via email (studentsenate@gm.slc.edu) and ask to have something added to the agenda to future meetings.

Senate meetings are also a good place for students to learn about college finances, services on campus, and other inner workings on campus. Sarah Lawrence President Karen Lawrence attended a meeting to address concerns about the school’s debt and how the school plans on reducing the deficit, the gender ratio on campus and the school’s enrollment with the NCAA Division, among other topics.

Senators are fully aware of the complicated relationship with the student body and the senate, and it is a concern that the leaders are addressing. Glover pointed out that the location of the senate meetings, Bates Meeting Room, is a bit inconvenient and closed off from the rest of campus. She suggested that the meetings move to a more open and visible space on campus such as an area in the library so that students have the chance to see what is going on as well as feel more encouraged to attend and get involved with the meetings and discussions.

“I think it would be a lot better for people to happen upon us in the library, rather than seek us out in a dark hallway in Bates,” said Glover.

Senate may seem like a detached presence from the SLC community, but senators do have an interest in what people have to say, and the leaders of the senate hope that more people will not just be aware of what the senate is doing, but also will actively participate in meetings if they feel that their voices need to be heard on relevant issues that affect campus life.

by Hugh Thornhill '14
Staff Writer and Contributing Layout Editor
hthornhill@gm.slc.edu

SLC Phoenix

The Phoenix is a non-profit, student-run publication representing the voices and opinions of Sarah Lawrence College community members. Our print edition publishes bi-weekly on Tuesdays, and our online edition is updated multiple times per week. Anyone may attend our open meetings at 9:00 PM on Wednesday nights in the North Room of the Pub.

Studying Abroad: The Good, The Bad and The Unexpected

John Bennet Special Programs and Housing Officer for Arcadia University. Devin Corbitt ('14), Brandon walls ('14), Grant C Lemasters ('15), Hugh Thornhill ('14), Morgan D'Antuono ('15) and Joelle Cubero ('14).  Photo by Grant C Lemasters ('15)

John Bennet Special Programs and Housing Officer for Arcadia University.
Devin Corbitt ('14), Brandon walls ('14), Grant C Lemasters ('15), Hugh Thornhill ('14), Morgan D'Antuono ('15) and Joelle Cubero ('14).

Photo by Grant C Lemasters ('15)

Studying abroad is an unforgettable experience for many Sarah Lawrence students. The chance to experience a new environment and take courses that are not offered at SLC is enticing, particularly because we are a relatively insulated community.

There are many pros and cons to studying in a new environment. My personal experience was very positive. I went to Glasgow in Scotland at the Glasgow School of Art (GSA). Originally, I enrolled just for a semester but I ended up extending it to the whole year. My program was not through SLC; instead, I studied at Acardia University, on the recommendation of the International Programs office.

The new social scene that students become exposed to while studying abroad is generally considered as one of the best parts of the experience. Niyonta Chowdhurry (‘15) fully took advantage of her new setting while in Bristol. “I loved it socially,” Chowdurry said, “Everyone there was really friendly, I made a lot of friends, and I loved the clubs there.”

Alexandra Martone (‘15) participated in the year-long Florence program during her junior year, and she also remembers the friends she made fondly. “Some of the most interesting people and some of the friends I’ve made there are some of the best friends I’ve ever had,” she said.

Adjusting to new faces was, to me, the most challenging part of studying abroad. Being used to my friends at SLC, it was at times intimidating to be thrown into a new environment without my traditional pillars around for emotional support.

Sam Marques (‘14) had the same difficulty as me when he was in a non-SLC affiliated program in Denmark: “The biggest disadvantage for me was that I was the only SLC student in the program. Being surrounded by SLC kids for two and a half years, you get used to that kind of ‘Sarah Lawrence energy,’ and it was harder for me to function socially.”

Away from the burdens of establishing a new social life, being able to take courses or enroll in a program that SLC does not offer was the most compelling aspect of going abroad. I had the chance to almost entirely devote myself to photography, which was not possible at SLC. I was completely immersed in what I wanted to study at the GSA without being distracted by other course material.

Similarly, Martone had the chance to study art restoration while in Florence, a subject that is not offered on SLC’s main campus. “It was really wonderful that our school offers a restoration program,” she said. “There’s not a lot of programs out there for conservation out there.”

For a lot of students, going abroad offers the opportunity to go to another country where they are not fluent in the native language. To them, this can be viewed both as a pro and a con. Martone was only beginning to learn Italian when she went to Florence. Though she listed learning a new language as one of the pros, she also expressed it was, at times, stressful to have to learn in an accelerated manner.

“I got to learn a new language, which is great...but it’s hard to move to a country where you don’t know the language. It’s very stressful to do your studies and everything else while making yourself fit into a culture,” she said.

While I was in Scotland, I never had to learn a new language, though understanding a Glaswegian accent is at times almost just as challenging. Being immersed in a new environment, while at times difficult, it is also refreshing. For me, the greatest thing about living in Glasgow for a year was being able to experience a city that was the artistic and cultural hub for Scotland. I loved being able to go to several art galleries (most of them free or at least discounted because I was an art student), being able to go out to some of the best clubs in the UK, and having the chance to mingle with artistically like-minded people.

For every new experience, there are risks. You have to be able to take the good with the bad. But for most, the pros tend to outweigh the cons. “I loved all the facilities around the campus and there were shops within walking distance. It was a small but happening community,” said Chowdurry. “As for downsides, there weren’t really any besides the weather during the fall and winter months.”

To everyone thinking of studying abroad, I recommend it very strongly; it is fun, it is challenging, you meet a lot of great people in a new city. I can guarantee that you will get something out of it that SLC is unable to offer. Martone said it well: “It was the best year of my life.”

by Hugh Thornhill '14
hthornhill@gm.slc.edu

 

SLC Phoenix

The Phoenix is a non-profit, student-run publication representing the voices and opinions of Sarah Lawrence College community members. Our print edition publishes bi-weekly on Tuesdays, and our online edition is updated multiple times per week. Anyone may attend our open meetings at 9:00 PM on Wednesday nights in the North Room of the Pub.