25 feats accomplished from “inside” the Student Senate chamber

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By Geenah Krisht

It is interesting—and very distressing—to see how students from all over campus are persuaded into overlooking the amount of work our Student Senate has put into SMU over the last few years.

Senate is comprised of the Student Body President, Vice President, Secretary, Parliamentarian, Chief of Staff, Speaker of the Senate, Committee Chairs, special interest seats, general members and one elected senator for every 300 students enrolled in each school.

“Looking back, this team has silently changed the fabric of this University,” Chief of Staff Chase Harker said. “Our efforts are found in a myriad of forms, which all share the common strand of getting things done.”

A claim has been made that “senate doesn’t really do much” for our campus. This baffles me because this “inside” info is both untrue and unsubstantiated.

“As an officer, it is our job to ensure Senate balances the mechanical tasks, the new initiatives and time sensitive tasks,” Student Body Vice President Monica Finnegan said. “Along with meeting with administrators regularly, we create teams of senators who will work on the projects or conduct research for our proposals.”

I have been a member of senate for one year. It did not take me long to realize that almost every senator sitting in the chamber each Tuesday has made a commitment to better SMU.

“I would argue that this year we had one of the most engaging Senate chambers,” Finnegan said. “More than ever, I saw that chamber of student leaders work with each other for a common purpose of bettering our school.”

“We may have issues communicating to the larger student population, but the body of work senate has produced in the last 18 months is impressive and should not be overlooked, “ Cox Senator JB Stockslager said.

It is silly to attempt persuading you because these are facts. Do yourself a favor, read everything below and decide for yourself.

For the sake of accountability, please enjoy 25 feats your SMU Student Senate has accomplished in just the last 18 months.

1. We increased the amount of money available to allocate to student groups by $50,000+ by renegotiating contracts. We now allocate over $1 million in student fees to charter organizations, student groups, and individuals.

2. We created the initiative for the new student center, which is a task that deserves attention. The plan’s finalization wasn’t expected for 10 years, but Senate’s hard work has led to President Turner approving the feasibility study.

3. We created and implemented the SMU Value Statement: I, as a citizen of the SMU community, commit myself to upholding the values of intellectual integrity, academic honesty, personal responsibility and sincere regard and respect for all SMU students, faculty and staff.

4. We created the “Not On My Campus” campaign against sexual assault. It has now been adopted by 11 other college campuses and featured on USA Today.

5. We established the first Student Senate Parking Taskforce in which we actually sat in a room with Mark Rhodes, the Director of Parking and ID Card Services, threw a map of the campus on a boardroom table, and discussed ways to improve the parking experience.

6. We established a relationship between our Student Concerns Committee and SMU Dining. They now meet routinely to voice student concerns.

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7. We made significant progress in extending the add/drop date by meeting with all involved departments/organizations—registrar, provost, Faculty Senate, etc.—and preparing extensive memoranda laying out all of the reasons and stats in favor of extending the add/drop date. It is now on the Faculty Senate Academic Policy Committee’s list of issues to address.

8. We have fostered a strong relationship between Faculty Senate and Student Senate by speaking with Faculty Senate during their meetings to bring to their attention items we need their help on, meeting with the Faculty Senate President to discuss issues they need our help on, and working closely with all of their committees.

9. We created the 100 Letter Campaign, celebrating our centennial and welcoming the Bush family to campus. We curated and compiled 100 letters from students addressed to President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush. He now flaunts this book of student letters at his home.

10. We created the Investments Committee allowing students to manage $400,000 to use in case of an economic downfall.

11. We wrote legislation to bring beer to Gerald J. Ford Stadium.

12. We established a Transfer Senator seat to address transfer student needs.

13. We created a database of over 2,000 alumni and held our first alumni reunion in several years.

14. We held an “It’s On Us” signing day with the administration, raising awareness of the national campaign against sexual assault and encouraging students to put an end to it by holding each other accountable.

15. We distributed over $150,000 in scholarships, and broke our record for scholarship applications—twice.

16. We created and fulfilled a resolution on lighting the commuter parking lot for your safety. We created a protocol for lighting on campus in which our student representatives held facilities accountable for dead light bulbs and faulty timers.

17. We created a bill to make sure that the Office of Information Technology seeks input from the Student Senate as representation of the student body before making decisions that impact 100 percent of the student population.

18. We approached the administration with grievances of too few classes tagged with pillars and proficiencies to which they responded by increasing the number of tags and abridging the University Curriculum for the first two cohorts.

19. We passed a bill by an overwhelming majority, despite ten previous years of failed votes, to establish an LGBT Senate seat, thereby bringing to the forefront issues which plague this underrepresented community.

20. We worked with the office of risk management to better prepare the campus for the threat of an active shooter and overall safety. In fact, this was the first active shooter training on a campus in the state of Texas.

21. We have met with the Athletics Director and department as a whole to discuss spirit and student engagement at sporting events. We addressed the problems and concerns with the Varsity Student Loyalty app to make sure that individuals were checking themselves into games.

22. We increased the operating hours of the Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports on football game days so that students could utilize the gym they are paying for.

23. We were able to move the Sign Room location back to Suite 300 where it is more easily accessible to all student organizations.

24. We began live tweeting all of the senate meetings to increase transparency and make sure you know what is happening in the chamber.

25. We requested that 2015, the last year of the Centennial Celebration, be the “Year of the Student.” It is.

This is your SMU Student Senate. Let your voice be heard.

I am proud to be a member of the SMU Student Senate, and cannot wait to see what the future holds.

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