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Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Western senators set their goals for the year

 The most diverse senate group in Western history might change the outlook on this year’s goals. 

A generic graphic of the AS logo via the aswwu instagram page

By Nathan Schumock

The newly elected student senators for the Associated Students have started setting goals that will help broaden and support student education at Western.

Most of the issues the senators want to tackle this year focus on realizing the Black Student Organizations’ demands, improving COVID-19-era learning and increasing mental health resources for students. 

Laura Wagner, a senator for the Huxley College of Environment, said she wants to work on the BSO demand to change Huxley College’s name.

Thomas Huxley was a biologist and an anthropologist who did important work to  combine the sciences and the humanities. But Huxley has come under fire for contributing to scientific racism.  Wagner said that the college is a representation of intersectional environmentalism, and the name Huxley betrays that. 

“The current name, named after Thomas Huxley, not only fails to represent that, but is a harmful attack on the fact that social justice is climate justice,” Wagner said. 

Additionally, Wagner said she wants to focus on a more diverse curriculum for Huxley and the university as a whole by working with the diversity and curriculum committees.

Wagner suggested creating a mandatory anti-racism course for students to help diversify the curriculum. 

Kendrick Jackson, a senator for the Woodring College of Education, echoed Wagner’s call for change in the curriculum.

“We want to work on diversifying the curricula, and that’s the conversation we’ve been having, and we’re looking at ways to bring it to faculty attention and admin attention,” Jackson said.

Jackson said he thinks it is vital to advocate for the experiences of all students and that he wants to accurately represent them.

While running studies on how effective student government can be, Michael T. Miller, a professor of higher education at the University of Arkansas, focused on the significance of caring for every student’s needs.

“There’s got to be the mindset of serving on a student senate as a service job,” Miller said. “Not prestige and power. You’re trying to take care of students.”

COVID-19 learning has been another focal point in new senators’ goals. Wagner said she felt disappointed by some professors who have not fully understood what students are going through during the pandemic.

Wagner said she hopes to establish a guide, created by faculty and students, that will allow students to have slightly more lenient turn-in dates and an expansion of office hours.

Connor Johnson, a senator for the College of Business and Economics, said he wants to make sure teachers have the correct resources to teach during a pandemic.

“We don’t feel like we’re connected and that we’re getting our money’s worth,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he wants to increase mental health funding for students and wants to make sure that online mental health services are more accessible for students in need.

AS Senate Pro Tempore Sargun Handa said that right now, she is focusing on training and welcoming the students into the senate so that they can begin their work.

With 70% of the senators being BIPOC students, this is the most diverse group in Western history, Handa said. 

 “I think this year is going to be awesome and we’re going to do a lot,” Handa said.

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