The Gizmo was crowded on Tuesday night, full of students waiting to hear from next year’s candidates for Student Senate President. The candidates, juniors Heather Kopec, Abby Pardick and Zack Lazar, took questions from the audience about a wide array of issues surrounding their candidacies.
Current Student Senate Vice President, senior Brian Lund, and Dean of Students Xavier Romano moderated the event. They began by asking each candidate about what their top three priorities would be, if elected.
Kopec said she would like to fix the disconn-ect between first term and senior senators by holding a retreat for all senators. Additionally, she’d like to hold a workshop for non-senators in order to inform them about how to better utilize Senate and get more students involved in the process.
Pardick and Lazar agreed that an increased communication between Senators and students would be an important goal to pursue next year. Possible solutions brought up by the candidates were sending out the minutes to the students for both Senate and Exec and making audio recordings available of each. Kopec talked about having open office hours regularly for students to address their personal issues with Senate. Pardick suggested renovating the Senate website to make it a more useful tool.
Lazar talked about increasing enthusiasm among Senators by encouraging them to stay at the meetings and address their constituents personally.
“Exec needs to put themselves out there,” said Kopec. She suggested increasing the number of events that Senate holds to encourage students and Senators to converse in a more relaxed setting.
“[Senators] have to be motivated,” said Lazar. “If [they’re] not motivated, no one’s going to care.”
Lazar talked about encouraging Senators and students to talk with one another and create a comfortable environment for their discussion to occur and ideas to be pursued.
In reaction to the heated debate that took place this term that started out about theme housing but grew into a discussion about how Senate uses its power, Lazar said that he has been able to talk with people on both sides of the debate.
“I have had an open dialogue with both sides. They both came to me,” said Lazar. “My whole life I’ve been a peacemaker.”
Pardick also talked about the discussions she’s had with opposing sides of the argument.
“I [can] have an open-minded conversation with different groups of people,” said Pardick.
“The most important role of the Student Senate president is to remain level-headed and not take things personally,” said Lazar.
“When people get upset, Senate isn’t productive,” said Kopec.
All three candidates also talked about restructuring the Senate and Senate Executive committees. Kopec suggested having both Senate and non-Senate students on committees pertaining to student life. Non-Senate students would apply during fall term and be elected by students. These representatives would be students-at-large, not regular members of Senate. Pardick and Lazar also recognized the need for non-Senate student participation, stipulating apart from Kopec that the representative be at least starting their second year at Knox.
“I know how Exec works when it is working and when it is not working,” said Kopec.
All candidates have previously been Senators. Currently, Lazar heads the Dining Services Committee and Kopec is Student Senate treasurer. Pardick spent a term as Sustainability Chair last fall. Both Lazar and Kopec have been members of a Greek organization on campus, Kopec as president for two terms.
Under Lazar, the Dining Services Committee coordinated painting the Hard Knox Café and playing WVKC through the speakers in the cafeteria.
“Mobilizing support within the community is something that has prepared me [to be Student Senate president],” said Lazar.
As Senate Treasurer, Kopec got additional funds from Senate for new clubs and more money for Senate to hold events on campus.
“It shows strong fiscal responsibility,” said Kopec. “We’ve made it more accessible.”
This year, Senate had $10,000 extra and was able to fund Rah-Rah Fete, an event that will be taken place this weekend.
During her time as Sustainability Chair, Pardick created a handbook about sustainability and made it accessible to students on campus.
The last question of the debate focused on dress codes for Senate meetings.
“I think it’s dehumanizing to decide what people wear,” said Lazar.
Both Pardick and Kopec were also decidedly against implementing a dress code for the meetings.
“A dress code would be a bit ridiculous,” said Pardick, the most casually dressed candidate at the debate.
“Come as you are,” said Kopec. “You are Knox and you have a freedom to flourish.”