Top positions and committee chairs discuss plans for next year
The Student Senate Executive Board (Exec) election last week swept in seven candidates who will be serving on Exec for the first time, two of whom are new to Senate altogether. Voter turnout was at a record 47 percent, up from 36 percent last year.
This week, The Knox Student is taking a look at the goals of each officer-elect for the coming year. During their interviews with TKS, it became evident that many of the officers-elect will keep in mind the precedent set by this year’s Exec.
President-elect junior Gordon Barratt won the election before it even started. But that has not detracted from his ideas about how Senate can and should work next year.
His stance centers on having a more engaged Executive Board and a more representative General Assembly, with the ultimate end of improving life at Knox. It is by design that his agenda is geared toward helping Senate work well, instead of instituting specific policies.
“If I want to push for specific policies, I’m not going to be an effective president,” Barratt said, referring to a conversation he had with current President senior Sam Claypool. “That’s not my role as president.”
Barratt argued that some committee chairs this year were not as active as they could have been at all times of the year.
By incentivizing students to run for Senate, he hopes that the General Assembly will become more representative of the student body. But first, students need to consider just how much power lies in Student Senate.
“We honestly do have the power to make Knox better. We have more power than, I think, people realize we have. If we make a resolution … [the faculty and administration] will listen to that,” Barratt said. “Tom Axtell, the Vice President for Finance, comes to Senate every year with the tuition and says, ‘Which of these three options do you guys like?’ … That is a huge power.”
Barratt also wants to counter the belief that Student Senate is a politicized organization.
“It’s not politics. We’re a group of students on campus whose task it is to represent the rest of the students,” Barratt said. “There’s a lot of people who see us as people who just want to pad their résumé or want power, but if we can get past that … it could make us work a lot better.”
Vice President-elect sophomore Michael Gasparro came out on top of the most highly contested race, beating out three other candidates for the vice presidency.
His main goal for next year concerns using the new Senate General Assembly structure (in which senators will be grouped by expected year of graduation, not residential districts) to foster “class leadership.”
He also mentioned that he would help freshman senators understand how the Senate works and “make them [effective leaders] for their class.”
He wants to continue the effort made by this year’s Exec to maintain the relationship between the students, faculty and administration, by “making sure that they’re on board with things we’re doing,” Gasparro said.
Gasparro will be abroad during winter term. Under the new Senate constitution and bylaws, a presidential appointee confirmed by a majority of the General Assembly will take office during his absence.
Secretary-elect sophomore Justin Steele plans to follow the precedent set by current Secretary senior Chris Bugajski in his role of acting as a conduit for information between the Senate and the student body.
He also mentioned the new class-based structure of the Senate and how that will affect his job as Secretary.
“It’ll be a different kind of Senate next year,” Steele said. “[The new structure] should make it easier to hear what people want. It’s easier to represent your class as a whole instead of your class as a district.”
Residential Quality of Life Chair
ResQual chair-elect junior Ellen Jackson, a current member of the committee, has been working closely with current chair sophomore Katie Wrenn, and Jackson plans to continue some of the committee’s current efforts next year.
They are drafting a contract that theme-housing residents will be required to sign. According to Jackson, this is designed to “hold them accountable” for following through with their themes and the theme housing policies.
Jackson hopes to maintain the strong relationship between Senate and the Campus Life Office with which she is already well acquainted, as she is a residential advisor and works with Associate Dean of Students Craig Southern during summer breaks.
“I think it’s going to be a really close bond, and I like that,” Jackson said. “[Southern’s] opinions are very valuable to us.”
She plans to look into making changes with the permanent theme housing policy, such that a review process would be added to form a kind of semi-permanent housing.
Safety and Services
Elected Safety and Services chair freshman Paul Brar did not know until last week that his committee will not exist next year. But he is still excited to fulfill his campaign promise to maintain the relationship between the students and Campus Safety.
Under the new constitution and bylaws, the responsibilities of the Safety and Services committee have been rolled into ResQual. And according to Barratt, Brar will serve as the co-chair of ResQual during this transition year.
“My main goal is to find a way to mold [the two committees together] without it being too overbearing for one person to handle,” Brar said.
Freshman senator and Sustainability chair-elect Max Potthoff, a current member of the committee, wants to publicize the availability of Green Fee funds and get more students to bring projects before the Sustainability Committee.
According to Potthoff, if the committee had not pitched in for the composting equipment this year, it would not have spent all of the Green Fee money. Therefore, he wants the process to be more “accessible.”
He also pointed to fixing some “glaringly obvious” issues, such as the use of Styrofoam in the Gizmo.
Much of the agenda of Technology Committee chair-elect sophomore Johnathan Ebbers is geared toward streamlining Internet connections on campus and making students more knowledgeable about its inner workings.
Ebbers pointed to some specific issues with the network, such as the Bradford client, which he argues is unnecessary and slows down the network. Also, he said that 60 percent of the bandwidth is reserved for faculty and 40 percent for students. Given that students are always on campus and using the network, he would want to get that ratio altered in the students’ favor.
“Some of the [computer science (CS)] professors are interested in working with the computer center on the network,” Ebbers said. “I would like to see a greater involvement in the network with the CS department, as well as an expansion of the CS department, as well as some outreach to the non-CS majors.”
He also plans to advocate for the use of open-source software and operating systems, which can be altered for specific uses and do not carry licensing fees.
Dining Services Chair
Sophomore senator and Dining Services chair-elect Kaitlyn Duling is mainly concerned with making the committee known on campus.
“At this point, I don’t think very many people know that we exist or exactly what our role is,” Duling said. “A lot of the ideas don’t actually come from the committee members but from everyone on campus.”
Specifically, she is interested in sustainability and using locally grown food, but she added that specific ideas need to come from elsewhere on campus. She also hopes to maintain a good relationship with Dining Services Director Helmut Mayer and the rest of the dining services staff.
Treasurer-elect junior Sara Ahmed is currently not on campus and was unavailable for comment. She will not be on campus during fall term next year.