Six members of the Class of 2022 have been elected to Student Senate, choosing to take part in the leadership body despite fears about entering such a role while still new to campus.
“When I saw the email about running I kind of thought you know, I don’t really have anything to loseÉ I thought that I would be a good candidate to kind of try to make things happen,” freshman Lydia Mitchell said.
Freshman Mujtaba Hassan, an international student from Pakistan, joined Student Senate and the Diversity Committee in the hopes of bringing forward the concerns he’s heard from other international students.
“[Knox is] already very friendly. It’s like a very diversity friendly campusÉ But there’s always room for improvement, and that’s what I wanted to bring to the senate,” Hassan said.
Freshman Bethlehem Mulualem acknowledge she took the opportunity to join senate not fully aware of its abilities and role, but felt open to learning.
“I haven’t really seen all parts of Knox, but I’ve been trying to reach out to people to know more about Knox, and to learn what they would like to change about Knox,” she said.
Mulualem joined the Student Life Committee, saying she wanted to focus on students’ day to day problems. She’s hoping to work on bringing eco-friendly shuttles to campus, as well as changing the nature of open discussion at Knox.
“I’m really really now focused on how to make Knox truly liberal and open to all ideas whereas, you know there is this one path and if you say something different it’s like, ‘no, no, no, you’re completely wrong,’” she said.
In reaching out to students, Mulualem said students largely complained about issues with their bathrooms and dorms, and feeling they don’t get enough of a response from administration over such problems.
A major concern Hassan has encountered so far is how difficult navigating campus can be for new students, having struggled finding certain buildings and classes himself.
“I’m in Post 5 so my neighbor, he asked me where GDH was and he’d been going to Old Main all the time… and he’d been here since Aug. 10 because he’s in football,” Hassan said.
Hassan pointed out this particularly impacted international students unfamiliar with being on a campus as large as Knox. He felt this issue could be dealt with by simply having more convenient signs on campus, believing the current maps on campus are outdated due to recent construction.
Hassan also stated many international students needed greater help overcoming the adjustment to English, beyond what’s already offered through the Intensive English Language Program, as well as more guidance on being in a new country.
“There’s just a lot of stuff that for an international student is new and because it is new, they get confused about it and they just need someone to guide them,” Hassan said.
Mitchell is on the Dining Services Committee and described her interest in the concerns she heard from her teammates on the soccer team about their dietary conditions.
“I also think that dining services is a big part of life on campus and it’s a great way to attract students to Knox,” she said.
Mitchell stated that Dining Services is already discussing issues like the vegan and vegetarian options in the cafeteria, as well as over-priced items in the C-Store.
Due to past issues with attendance, Student Senate has been emphasizing and moving to put in place strict policies, which Hassan supports.
“It is the senate. There has to be a certain level of seriousness for the body to be taken seriously,” Hassan said. “That encourages that only serious people get on the senate, that want to see the change.”
Mitchell and Mulualem noted they face challenges in ensuring they’re able to commit enough time to senate and not have attendance issues.
“I’m trying to limit myself so that you know I can really focus on Student Senate and I can really focus on soccer and not have a lot of other distractions,” Mitchell said.
Mulualem acknowledged that her current job will be an issue for her availability, but said she had spoken to the Senate executives about it.
“My working hours are not flexible for my employer… I will be mostly late to some meetings. But I won’t be completely absent,” she said.
The senators all emphasized that it is simple for students to bring their concerns to Student Senate, noting that public concerns are the first thing addressed at every meeting. The senators also expressed their belief in the body being essential to the campus.
“It might be working behind the scenes and not visible to all the students but of course [it’s a] vital, vital part of student life, everything here I believe,” Mulualem said.
Mitchell noted that while she was involved in student government in high school, she looked forward to being able to accomplish more with the Student Senate at Knox.
“[I’m] working towards you know, people just in general being happy at Knox and doing things for other people so we make the whole Knox experience just really great for everybody,” she said.