Amy Heard, Chase Sackett and Greg Schweizer, all Student Union (SU) senators from Arts & Sciences, have established Senate Outreach Week—an initiative intended to have senators connect to the students they represent while making students aware that senators are there to respond to their concerns.
“We’d done a better job of having contact with the administration last semester,” Sackett, a junior, said. “So this semester we’re trying to connect with students and bring it full-circle.”
That effort has included SU senators tabling in the Danforth University Center every day this week with a display about how the senate works, and what Heard calls “active outreach” on Thursday and Friday in public places on campus.
“We’re going to be walking around and talking to students, seeing what their views are on senate, seeing what they know, if they have any concerns,” Heard, a sophomore, said.
While the three organizers have tried to stay in touch with the campus pulse since joining SU, Sackett says that the difference is that they now hope to establish an organized system in Senate to stay in touch with students.
That system will revolve around “senator-constituent e-mails,” or e-mails that each senator will send out to a group of students on a regular basis, which started on Wednesday. The e-mails, the senators hope, will set the groundwork for each student to know that he or she has a senator representing him or her.
The senators hope, in turn, that by associating a face or a name with Senate, students will feel more comfortable bringing their concerns to the body.
“We obviously talk to a lot of people, but there hasn’t been that structure there,” Sackett said. “Constituent e-mails are something we’ve seen as missing. It’s one component in a greater whole of what we’re going to try to do.”
The proposed program is in many ways a resurrection of the Personal Senators Program that SU stopped two years ago. While the senators recognize that that project did not succeed, they say that this project includes changes that will make it more sustainable.
One of those changes is that students will be assigned to a seat in Senate rather than to a specific senator, meaning that if a senator graduates or leaves the position, students will have a successor with whom they can connect.
Heard added that another goal of the new program is to shift attention to the schools outside of Arts & Sciences. Although a senator will represent students from her school, the body wants all students to feel that the whole senate speaks for them.
“We want to focus on more than just the senators from their school,” Schweitzer, a sophomore, said of students outside of Arts & Sciences, “so that they feel like they’re involved with everyone on campus and that it’s more of a cohesive unit than separated by school, by what your interests are.”
Although the Senate has contacted SU Treasury regarding the initiative, Schweizer said that one of their goals was to create an identity for Senate separate from that of the Treasury. Schweitzer said students are more aware of Treasury than of Senate because Treasury deals with funding issues and communicates with the heads of student groups.
“We’re trying to establish what Senate itself does,” Schweizer said. “Students are concerned about Treasury, and the [SU] executive is more visible. We’re trying to show what we can do as senators and make sure that people know that there is a second branch and that they can bring their concerns to us as well.”
As a result of this program, the senators hope that they will be able to act as more of a liaison between Senate and the administration, and that this will enable senators to come to administrators with more student support for their proposals.
“If more students buy in, the more power we have to actually get the administration to enact the change that students want,” Sackett said. “We’re doing what students want and we’re getting the administration to do what students want.”
Tags: amy heard, chase sackett, greg schweizer, outreach week, SU senate