Monday night’s Senate meeting ended with the ceremonial changing of the guard. As one Executive Board said their farewells, "clearly an emotional moment for guys like outgoing President Saumitra Thakur, who has spent pretty much every Monday night at a Senate Meeting for the past four years," the new officers were sworn in.
Monday night will mark the commencement of a new Senate. Of the 32 senators who will take office, only 10 of them will have served on Senate in the past. A number of senators who have until now been considered inexperienced for only serving a semester or less, will be regarded as the veteran members of their classes. It could be a scary thing to think about: the fact that our student body is entrusting a $900,000 budget, as well as pretty much any issue concerning student life, to a group of people of whom two-thirds will start off not really knowing what they’re doing. But this does not worry me, it excites me.
Every year, we hear the same complaints: “The Senate doesn’t do anything but allocate money. I don’t know anything about the AAS. Senators take themselves too seriously. Our current student government system is too bureaucratic” … and many of these grievances are not far off. But if there has ever been a time in our College’s history to change things, that time is now. With only two senators that have served more than two semesters on the AAS, Monday’s new Senate will bring fresh new ideas and perspectives to the table from many who decided to join because they shared these very grievances themselves and wanted to do something about it. But don’t get me wrong, many of the flaws in the AAS do not simply come from our current or past members, but, rather, have built up from years of precedent and traditions that are no longer relevant in this day and age. Monday will mark the first night of a year-long process to reform the AAS in ways that will better connect the student body. Here’s how:
Right now, our school spirit is lacking. If you’ve been to an athletic event this past year, other than Homecoming, you probably know this. If you haven’t been to an athletic event this year … you definitely know this. Up until now, the extent to which the AAS has attempted to combat the issue of getting students motivated to go out and support the Jeffs has been to simply throw money at different groups to do it. Granted, school spirit has never been our responsibility. I want to change that and make it our responsibility, because as hard as groups like the Fun Police work towards this sort of thing, they simply don’t have the resources or the man power. Next year, the AAS will create a committee of representatives from the Fun Police, Social Council, Program Board and the AAS, all groups whose purpose should involve working towards a stronger sense of community on campus. I can think of no greater feeling of community than joining my fellow classmates to cheer our school on against our rivals.
As a tour guide, I find it kind of embarrassing to tell prospective students that two of our past three Spring Concert artists have been Mike Posner and The Decemberists. Don’t get me wrong, neither group is bad, but they simply do not appeal to a wide enough faction of the student body. I also feel weird telling people that the biggest-name speaker I have heard of coming to campus in the past few years was Ann Coulter. Rather than point fingers, let’s talk about how we can fix these problems. As many students are aware, we’ve been working on laying the groundwork for a Speaker Board, which would bring big name speakers to campus. This board would link together different groups and departments on campus that have previously not worked together. But more than just pooling funding, we will share our resources and connections. A school like ours should not have to drop over $50K for big names. I believe that we have the connections to bring bigger names, and we just need to be smart and efficient about how we use them. As far as Spring Concert artists, this is not something that should be decided right before winter break when most artists are already booked for the spring. We need to get on this at the very beginning of next school year.
I pledge that in the coming year, the AAS will do something about our lack of late night dining here on campus. I, for one, get hungry after 12 a.m. on weeknights. The AAS has the resources to keep Schwemm’s open later or occasionally get Val open for a late-night snack. At the bare minimum, we can sponsor a once-monthly, free late-night buffet, which many of our rival schools offer. Additionally, we will assist the administration in plans to build a Café in the library. These are all fairly simply initiatives that will make a huge difference.
These are a few of the many things that you will see from the AAS in the coming year. And broadly speaking, we will become more accessible to the student body. That is a pledge. We will also be working on developing a new Constitution so that our meetings are not bogged down by inefficient rules that make no sense. Another reason that our student government is at a pivotal point pertains to the fact that a new College President will arrive on campus in the fall. The President will come to the AAS as representatives of the student body as a whole. I am confident that when such a meeting occurs, we will fully be able to convey your thoughts and desires. Please continue to stay engaged with us so that we can better serve you. It has been a wonderful year, but it is time to take things to the next level.