As 2008-2009 Student Senate President Elaine Wilson steps down from office, she takes with her years of hard-earned experience. Having been in Student Senate since her first year at Knox, Wilson represents one of a handful of individuals who have re-dedicated themselves to student government.
“I was the first year representative on Exec Board,” Wilson said, “and I really liked that, and I wanted to stay doing that.”
Wilson’s initial run for Senate had nothing to do with gaining power or drastically altering campus. However, there have been recent insinuations about her intentions that say differently.
“It honestly wasn’t because I wanted to see some great change,” Wilson said, “and it wasn’t even particularly interested in national politics, I just thought it would be a good way to meet people. It seemed like fun. I didn’t know anybody who was in Senate, really. The vice president at the time, Hassin Massoud, he was a senior, and he encouraged anyone and everyone to run. And I really didn’t have any other activities, and it seemed like a fun way to meet people, and I figured that I’d stay informed. Only along the way did I see a need for changes in some way and did I see ways to bridge the gaps between the administration and the students and the students and the Student Senate. Initially, I just wanted to make friends.”
That initial reason stayed with Wilson over the years, and grew to include more responsibilities in the Senate.
“It’s still fun, I still like it a lot, but I… this year especially, it hasn’t been as light-hearted as I have been in years past,” Wilson said. “Even as the Communications Officer, I was one of the top four officers, but I kind of didn’t feel the brunt of criticisms and stuff like that if you’re number three or four in line. You feel the heat, but it’s really the president, not just me, I think, the president next year, and my predecessor, just feel the weight of the world, the weight of Knox on her shoulders.”
As a candidate for President at the end of last year, Wilson wanted to include a greater student voice than had previously been sought out.
“I thought that I was the most qualified for the job,” Wilson said. “I was very forthright on the campaign trail that I had a few ideas, a few reasonably easy to implement ideas, and as far as big great plans for the college, I didn’t have much of that, so I kind of solicited the students, like let me know what you want, big things or little things, and we’ll try and get that done. I thought I was the most qualified, and I think being level headed and rational is really important, and that was something that I would bring.”
A year has passed since then, and some events have caused the outgoing President to feel less than enthusiastic at times.
“The impeachment really struck me. I was surprised, saddened obviously, a little bit angry, but not mostly angry. Mostly sad.”
“At the end of the day,” Wilson said, “there are a hundred and fifty some people who thought I did or was doing such a terrible job that they wanted me out of office. You can get 150 people to sign anything, people have told me. And that may or may not be true. I’d like to think higher of people, that they’re not so gullible. There are a decent number of students who thought I was doing such a bad job that they wanted me impeached. That struck me. That was surprising to me.”
There are things she regrets doing as well, particularly in response to some issues with Special Interest Housing, and students who felt slighted by the process.
“I think that I was heavy-handed in claiming that this group of students were … that they felt personally wronged and they wanted a house so they leveled these attacks against Senate,” Wilson said. “Only they’ll know, in their heart of hearts, why they alleged these things. If they were truly operating out of a concern for the level of discourse for Student Senate, then for that I have apologized. That is something I would change, my reaction to that issue.”
Now, Wilson looks on to the future, with her knowledge and experience backing her.
“After this, I’m going to intern for Congressman Aaron Schock,” Wilson said. “[Student Senate] certainly facilitated it. It’s difficult to compare the Student Senate with being an intern in congressional office. It’ll be totally different. I hope I don’t walk in on day one with an entitled attitude because I’m going from up here at Knox to the bottom of DC. It’s certainly given me an understanding of having disagreements with people, and the right way to handle them and the wrong way to handle them. It’ll be different though.”