SU Senate holds first town hall this year
Student Union (SU) Senate hosted its first town hall this year to showcase its role on campus to Washington University students and to allow students to voice concerns they think the Senate should address, November 7. There were approximately five students unaffiliated with SU Senate at the town hall, three of whom plan on running for Senate next semester. This was the first town hall since Feb. 27, 2023.
SU Senate’s purpose is to advocate for students and create programs that support students’ needs.
The Senate is composed of four committees, each of, which presented their ongoing projects to improve students’ experiences at WashU: Academic Affairs, Health and Wellness, Diversity and Inclusion, and Campus and Residential Experience (CRE).
The Academic Affairs committee is focusing on supporting the Mental Health Coalition, a group of student organizations and students hoping to improve mental health on campus, and its goals, such as extending the add/drop deadline which was also a focus of the Academic Affairs committee last semester.
One student asked about pushing back the add/drop deadline. Speaker of the Senate, junior Erin Ritter, explained that SU Senate wants to push it back; it has been difficult to get it approved by the University.
“It’s a little bit difficult because it requires working with all of the deans from different schools and they are not very good at agreeing on things,” Ritter said.
The Health and Wellness Committee has been working with health-centered organizations such as Uncle Joe’s, S.A.R.A.H, and EST to get more students certified in CPR without charge and have access to emergency contraceptives 24/7.
The Diversity and Inclusion Committee is trying to increase access to financial aid and FAFSA information not only for incoming students, but also for students on campus throughout their four years here.
The CRE committee hopes to compensate low-income students who dedicate more than 10 hours of their time per week to a leadership position in a club.
SU Senate then opened the floor to questions from students.
Freshman Sydney Kim asked the Senate how clubs can obtain funding since she felt that information is not accessible to students.
“There is a board that has all of the financing information that [club] members need,” Ritter said. “It is kind of a new thing, but we are trying to raise awareness about that.”
Kim and other students also asked about the difference between Treasury, Senate, and Council of the South 40 (CS40). Freshman Bralin Duckett stated in an interview with Student Life that he came to the town hall to understand why SU Senate has so much power on campus.
“What’s the reason that you guys get so much money and so much power?” said Duckett.
In an interview with Student Life, Ritter stated town hall is important because students don’t know much about SU Senate.
“If you ask first-years and second-years now, half of them don’t even know what Student Union is,” Ritter said
According to Ritter, there needs to be more student engagement with Student Union.
“The missing link to creating real and lasting change is student involvement in the Student Union,” Ritter said. “That’s a failing and not only on the students’ part but on the Senate’s part.”
In an interview with Student Life, sophomore Sonal Churiwal, the chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, explained students also need to be more involved with SU Senate in an interview with Student Life.
“I think this also goes to show how reactionary this campus tends to be because in the aftermath of a certain campus-wide or nationwide crisis, there’s a lot more interest taken in SU,” Churiwal said. “I think that it’s on all of us as student leaders and students on this campus to create a culture where we’re supporting each other all the time.”
Sophomore Ashton Lee, a senator and the organizer of the town hall, views this event as a test run and says there will be more to come.
“First and foremost, we represent the students, not the University. We want to hear from you. You represent the University and that’s our job: to represent you,” Lee said.