Senate seeks student recognition amid open Sam Fox School seats
Despite several open seats at the start of the semester, Student Union Senate has high hopes for its plans this fall.
For the past few terms, the Senate has faced difficulty recruiting students to represent the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts. With a requirement of having at least two students from each undergraduate school on campus, the absence of these delegates leaves the impression of underrepresentation for some schools.
Although the College of Arts & Sciences also has four open seats, Senate Speaker Leigha Empson, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, attributed these openings to senators graduating or going abroad rather than a lack of interest. The Sam Fox seats, however, have presented more of a struggle to the Senate.
“The Sam Fox seats have been a challenge over the last few terms,” Empson said. “We struggled a little bit just because of the size of the school; there is not as big of a pool to draw from.”
Despite the setback, Empson remains positive.
“Right now, we have one architecture senator, one open architecture seat and two open art seats. Our goal this semester is to get those seats filled through the elections in November,” she said.
“We’re going to reach out to the Art School council to try to figure out who are some of the leaders from that school who would be willing to come in and represent their school on Senate.”
Joshua Stevens, a freshman from the College of Architecture, has already filled one empty Senate seat. He credits the difficulty filling the open Sam Fox seats to the fact that students in that school tend to have less free time than those from other schools.
“I know in the Colleges of Art and Architecture, a lot of our work is very time-consuming, so I think there is the illusion that students might not have the time to commit to this kind of organization or project,” Stevens said. “But I think that in a lot of ways it’s very manageable if you try to make it that way.”
Another issue that the Senate faces is a lack of name recognition. Freshman Erin DeNardo, an engineering student, said most students don’t know what the Senate actually does.
“I just wish that the Senate was more accessible to the general population,” DeNardo said.
Empson explained that the Senate has recognized this problem and will be working on advertising its purposes and goals to the student body this semester.
“Our job is kind of twofold. The first thing that we do is act as a liaison with the administration, so if they have plans, they’ll get feedback from us. The bigger thing we do is projects such as the app that now tracks the Circulator so you can see where it is on your phone,” Empson said.
As a part of the advocating portion of Student Union, the Senate works with the administration to bring forward the concerns and ideas of the student body.
“I think that we have a really great administration that is really willing to work with Senate and really willing to make the changes on campus based on what students want,” Empson said. “I think that the biggest problem they face is that they don’t hear feedback from students; they’re not hanging out in the dorms to hear that people wish the Circulator was on time or things like that,” Empson noted.
The Senate hopes to present the students’ ideas so that they can be put into action in the greater University community. Over the summer, Student Union sent out a survey to the student body about classes and programs that students feel might be missing from the University’s repertoire.
Though Empson admitted that it could be difficult to put some ideas into motion within the span of the four years one has as an undergraduate, the Senate has been relatively successful in completing some of its projects in a short period of time.
For students wishing to have their voices heard by the Senate, Empson suggests attending one of their weekly meetings in the Danforth University Center.
“They’re always open; students are always welcome to come in and share their ideas,” she said.