Discourse / Editorials / Student Senate / November 2, 2011

Increasing student engagement with Senate

When I was first elected to this position, I began thinking about what I could do to make this school a better place for the students who go here. This is a big task, to say the least. The problem isn’t how to get things done: Senate is in a uniquely effective position to change things on campus; the real trouble lies in knowing what to do.

In years past, we’ve just relied on the views and thoughts of the people who are in Student Senate. I knew that couldn’t be the case this year. I was determined to make it my number one priority to try and reach out to the student body as much as possible and give every student the opportunity to voice their thoughts and concerns about issues that they care about on campus.

I began before the school year even began — creating a senate Facebook page (facebook.com/knoxstudentsenate) and Twitter account (@KnoxSenate). This term, we’ve brought back the senate comment box (outside Taylor Lounge), publicized all of our meeting times, created a Google phone number (970-K-Senate) that people can text. We’ve re-made all of our bulletin boards, created distribution lists for senators to speak directly to their constituents, put up posters and we’re in the process of making a new and improved senate website.

But here’s the problem — out of all these new services, few are being utilized. Getting people to send us thoughts and suggestions has been like pulling teeth. Only two or three people have left us a comment in the comment box. Nobody has texted the number. Very few people have come to any meetings.

I spent a lot of time thinking about why this was, and the more I do, the more it makes total sense. As someone who isn’t Greek, I rarely go to any Greek events. Not because I have anything against Greek life. Many of my close friends are in a fraternity or sorority. But it’s just not a part of my niche on campus. Same reason I rarely go to club events for clubs I’m not a part of. I, as with most people on this campus, have chosen my niche on campus and I tend to stick with that. And I’m not alone, I feel like most of us at Knox do the same thing.

It’s odd that many of us are this way. Knox is such a close-knit community, and I feel like most of us have friends in many different groups on campus. And yet we choose to stay the course and not get involved in other aspects of life. Everyone on campus has things that they care about — policies or services on campus that we think should be changed or done away with completely, but these things are never going to happen unless you take action.

Even if you have never been involved with senate, even if you know nobody on senate, even if you don’t want to make any effort to actually change whatever it is that you care about, do just one thing — let us know what it is. We have the power and the ability to make change on this campus, and we are committed to working toward issues that students care about, but none of this can happen without you. We’ve got our ears open, so let’s hear what you have to say.

Gordon Barratt is the president of the Knox Student Senate.

Gordon Barratt

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