AS Vice President of Academic Affairs Levi Eckman speaks with the Student Senate at their first unofficial meeting on Dec. 4. // Photo by Kenzie Mahoskey
By Simon Thomas
On Saturday morning, Dec. 1, Student Senate candidates were called with the results of a weeklong election process. The 20 selected members from each college now compose the first elected senate in Western history.
Adding a student senate has been on the Associated Students docket for nearly three years, according to AS Vice President of Academic Affairs Levi Eckman. Eckman was on the task force assigned to create the senate and will be acting AS Senate Pro Tempore without pay as the new legislative branch of student government works on establishing itself.
Eckman said that the seven AS Board members have too much decision-making power as the only students allowed to add items to AS agenda, vote on resolutions and be members of certain committees.
The senate will also take on seats in around 30 different committees that AS Board members filled previously. This will also better balance the power the AS Board has by giving the senate a stronger voice. The senate will also be able to remove AS Board members, creating a democratic way to ensure accountability.
The AS Student Senate met for the first time unofficially on Tuesday, Dec. 4, after members were elected. Approval of the election results will be voted on by the AS Board of Directors at their next meeting on Friday, Dec. 7, making senate activity official.
The purpose of the meeting held by Eckman was to get the newly-elected members acquainted and to familiarize them with the responsibilities and power given to the senate. Senate members received student-employee info packets and a copy of the AS Student Senate Charge and Charter, explaining job descriptions and rules and regulations for the senate.
Years ago, a senate operated as a sub-committee to the AS Board of Directors, but was disbanded due to obsolescence, since the group was never given much to do, according to Eric Alexander, dean of student engagement and Viking Union director. He said the group was unpaid and carried little power, unlike the new senate.
AS Committee Coordinator Cora Cole also spoke to the newly-elected officials to explain the many different committees the senate members will be a part of. Cole said committee appointments will be divided amongst the senate’s members.
AS President Millka Solomon and AS Vice President of Governmental Affairs Natasha Hessami both attended the meeting as well to congratulate the senate members.
The senate will begin operating at full capacity once they schedule meeting times and discuss their branch’s agenda. This, as well as senate staff training, will begin after winter break.