Senate continues equity-based initiatives, looks ahead to next term

| Senior News Editor

In its new term, Student Union Senate aims to expand the volume of projects tackled while checking more items off its to-do list.

Junior Steven Kish, the new Speaker of the Senate, said that over the past term, comprised of the spring and fall 2019 semesters, Senate enacted more initiatives than in prior terms —a trend that Kish hopes to continue.

Many of Senate’s goals stemmed from the Improve WashU report released in April. The main concerns raised by students were mental health, socioeconomic diversity and dining services. Senate’s Health and Wellness Committee began an initiative to add the medical leave of absence notation to transcripts as one way to address these concerns.

According to Kish, the projects Senate chose to pursue over the past year primarily fell within two categories: initiatives that Senate had the jurisdiction to directly impact, such as the implementation of paper straws, and higher-level initiatives Senate could use their collective voice to advocate for, such as the carbon neutrality report.

The Diversity and Inclusion Committee, led by junior Allyson Hollie, is currently working to compile a student printing credit report. The committee also penned a report of the grievances off-campus students face and contributed to the Portrait Representation Project, which aims to increase racial representation in portraits on campus.

The Health and Wellness Committee, led by sophomore Gaby Smith, also planned a self-care fair alongside the activities fair and passed three resolutions that publicized Senate’s stance on the proposed Title IX regulations.

Chair of the Campus and Residential Experience Committee sophomore Philip Keisler said that, in addition to the carbon neutrality report, his committee also worked to expand swipe access for students living on campus and put together a safety report.

“This past term, members of the CRE Committee have worked to make real change on campus,” Keisler said. “This next term, we’re excited to work to create more healthy options on campus as well as improve the Wash. U. experience for working students.”

One major accomplishment for the Academic Affairs Committee was the report to extend the add/drop deadline. The committee is also in the process of developing a four-year advisor matching survey that will allow students to have advisors who share similar identities.

Sophomore Anne He, chair of the Academic Affairs Committee, will appoint project leads within her committee to preside over syllabi centralization, religious accommodations and academic equity.

“I’m super excited to give the project leads a rewarding leadership experience and hope this will draw in a lot of new constituents to work with Senate,” He said.

Although junior Sophie Scott, Speaker of the last term, is pleased with Senate’s accomplishments, she acknowledged that there is still work left to do.

“There are definitely things that are on the term goals document that haven’t been completely checked off, but those are things that we continue to work on, and over the next term and future terms, we’ll pull more students together to try to tackle,” Scott said.

As a senator, Scott plans to focus her efforts on mental health and equity over the next term.

“For the next term, I’m trying to focus on… how we can ensure that all students, regardless of their background and what high school they went to, can succeed at Wash. U,” Scott said.

Each committee chair from the past term, including He, Keisler, Hollie and Smith, will continue in their roles for the upcoming term. In initial meetings with the leadership team, Kish outlined his desire to take advantage of each committee’s strengths and conceptualize ways for each one to run most effectively.

“As we expand… the way that the committees are run is going to need to change to keep up with that,” Kish said.

Students who are not currently involved in SU are still invited to participate in any of the four committees. Scott encouraged interested students to visit the SU website and sign up.

“The only way that we can make the system-level changes at the University that the students want to see is by students rallying together behind this,” Scott said.

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