Senate Listens to Students’ Voice

Student Senate Special Elections Results

Student Senate Special Elections Results

Taylor Fife

Last week students had the opportunity to voice their opinions regarding campus services, such as parking, dining, and the bookstore last week at the Student Senate meeting. The open forum which occurs every senate meeting was extended to give students time to voice their opinion and representatives from each of the campus service organizations were brought in to address specific questions and suggestions. Issues dealing with parking, wireless services, dining options, sustainability, and senate advocacy were all brought up.

“It was a step in the right direction and I look forward to more open discussion with students on other issues” said Student Trustee Alex Kulenovic of the event. The open forum was managed in an open format with questions being fielded from both members of the senate and members of the audience. Students were encouraged to address any member of the campus services team, or they could offer suggestions directly to the senate about how they felt they could be better represented.

“It’s about time that something like this occurred. The senate is the voice of the undergraduate student body and should always advocate on their behalf. Now we need students to come and voice their opinions, without their input the senate cannot provide results, we’re doing our part and we’re waiting for them to do theirs.” said senator Juana Matias, who is also the student representative to the Faculty Council.

Turnout at the event was not particularly high, but was clearly the best attended meeting the senate has had this year. Perhaps the most notable thing about the meeting was the fact that the large quantity of students who normally sleep or do homework in the Ryan Lounge during meetings actually woke up and listened to the ideas that were being presented.

Diane D’Arrigo, who is the Assistant Vice Chancellor of Campus Services, was the main guest who was brought in to present the services that are offered and hear questions and suggestions from students and the senate.

Senator Joanna Prifti immediately brought up the issue of parking, asking how the gravel lots will be functional once snow is on the ground. Steve Martinson, the Director of Parking & Transportation, commented that new lots are already being built. In addition, the gravel lots will not be totally out of commission once it snows and they only accommodate a small percentage of current parking anyway. Martinson also acknowledged that the current parking situation is not a long term fix and that parking is an important issue being discussed by the Master Planning Committee.

When asked, David Levine, General Manager of Dining Services, acknowledged that the Quinn Café may be closing in the future. If the Café does close, the Campus Center Cafeteria and other dining locations would be expected to pick up the business. As locations such as the Jazzman Café and the Wit’s End often experience a dearth of customers, closing the Quinn Café would not likely create long lines and overstretched food services elsewhere.

Denis Bogere, who attends nearly all senate meetings, has been concerned for a long time that the senate does not represent the needs and desires of the students. “The senate needs to realize that they represent the rest of campus. It’s a diverse community and they need to acknowledge that,” said Denis. The senate hopes that this idea of open forums and student input will increase the legitimacy of the senate.

While members of the senate were glad to have the event, some were concerned that it was not at the level that it should have been. Trustee Kulenovic said that “it should be more open and less formal.” Although free desserts, drinks and pizza were provided, attendance could have been much better.

Kathleen O’Brien, treasurer of the sustainability club, asked about vegetarian and vegan options in the cafeteria. Veggie burgers are available from Burger King on request and Dining Services is currently in the process of creating an electronic database of all nutrition facts for students to see. While more food diversity and longer hours would be nice, unless students can demonstrate that they will in fact use these services, things are unlikely to change.

Other campus services that have recently been enhanced include the campus center, which has upgraded its wireless and now displays artwork. Marine Operations has a new vessel, the Columbia Point. The game room has recently been renovated, and a popcorn machine was brought there just this week. A permanent dining and catering services committee is now in the works and will seek to provide constant student opinion on the issue of food on campus. Also, the bookstore is now an official Apple Store and provides new services and electronics supplies that it previously did not.

Immediately following the open forum, the Senate engaged in its longest and most heated debate of the semester. The senate discussed whether or not to fund Travel Club’s winter trip to Puerto Rico until 6:20 PM.