Why Student Senate?

photo from covenant.edu

photo from covenant.edu

On Wednesday, December 6th, I sat in on a weekly Senate meeting for the first time. Senators mingled around the conference room tables in Carter in their business-casual as wind whistled in through the side windows on this dark, cold night. Emily Balint, the Coordinator for Student Leadership, and the Senators were joined by President Derek Halvorson who started off the night by asking and answering questions regarding the college and the student body. After he left, the Senators conducted some official business in regards to budget allocations for certain clubs. They concluded their meeting as they regularly do by holding hands in a circle around the tables and singing the Doxology.

This meeting revealed how our elected peers are regularly wrestling with important issues, implementing resources, and theorizing creative solutions for important topics concerning the campus community whilst keeping Christ preeminent. Although often unseen, these Senators are hard at work representing the student body and actively working to provide the means for students to flourish.

Erik Peeples (’20), current Student Body Vice President and President Elect, said that one of his favorite quotes about the role of Student Senate was found in an old Bagpipe article from years ago from the former Student Body President at the time. “‘Student Senate is simply a power to be wielded by the students,’ which is so true,” Peeples said. “We are the students’ power. Whatever they want to do, complain about, or need student development or other departments to hear, we have the power and assets to do that. For me, that is one of my favorite things: creatively looking at problems on campus and being able to know where to go or how to fix them.”

One of the ways Peeples has seen this opportunity realized is through his work compiling a Student Senate portal to go on Canvas. This “one-stop shop” will be a hub of information that the campus community will have right at their fingertips including an active club list with emails, Senators’ contact info and office hours, weekly minutes, and election information. The entire portal is set up and Peeples hopes it will be programmed by IT by the summer.

Also, Peeples has been working directly with elections. He has moved voting online to provide accessibility for all students to participate more easily. One of Peeples’ most exciting projects has been developing the groundwork for an entirely new Senate position called the Multicultural Liaison. Peeples hopes this position, that will most likely begin next year, will be a bridge between the various Multicultural Clubs and Student Senate.

Tindol Pate (’19), Student Body President, discussed reasons why students should take an interest in what their senators are doing for the campus. “One of the huge ways senators serve students is by managing the student fee,” she said. This expense which each student pays per semester within their tuition goes to the Senate budget which the senators, overseen by Treasurer Nick Sneller (’20), allocate to clubs, the Campus Activities Board, and residence halls, through which some of the most loved campus-wide events are resourced. This year the executive committee headed by Pate has focused on reforming clubs to ensure they are serving the student body well.

Pate described how serving on Senate has been a way to give back to this college that has poured into her. “It gives you space to do more than just complain,” Pate says. “You have this ability to be an agent of change and solution, even if it is just in small ways.” Since Senators have a foot in the door to Covenant’s Board and many influential departments, Pate has enjoyed advocating for students in important ways. She has grown as an individual improving on tangible skills she can include on resumes and during interviews such as team collaboration and project execution.

With spring elections approaching, Peeples encourages all students, even those who have never been involved in Senate before, to consider running for a position. “[New senators] are ambitious and vibrant and look at things fresh,” Peeples said. “They can make everyone realize limitations are oftentimes just self-imposed.”

This is the biggest election cycle of the year, and the positions of Residence Hall Presidents and Class Presidents will be up for election. Application packets will be available starting March 11th, debates will occur on March 25th, and the elections will be on March 26th and 27th.

Junior Class President, Caroline Hulting (’20) said that before becoming a part of Senate, she had no idea the amount of impact she could have. “My favorite part is having the voice to make important decisions on campus,” Hulting said. She has particularly enjoyed being a part of different committees dealing with important topics such as food service and parking issues.

Mary Peyton Vardell (’20), Carter President, has truly enjoyed the challenge of putting on events such as Carter Christmas and Cafe Literati. “I’ve loved getting to be a part of the behind-the-scenes work that goes on for events and other activities at Covenant,” Vardell said.

Even if you are not interested in running for office, there are plenty of ways you can get involved. Your Senators will be hosting their first of three open office hours this semester, where their office across from the mailroom will be open for questions from the student body.

“This creates intentionality in trying to get people to come for a specific amount of time to ask questions, learn about different positions, and talk to multiple informed Senators,” Peeples said.

Every Senate meeting except for the yearly budget meeting is open for visitors as well. You are encouraged to come to the Conference Room in Carter at 7:15 p.m. each Wednesday to get an inside look at the work of your representatives.

Also, you can always contact your individual senators by their Covenant emails or simply email studentsenate@covenant.edu with any questions, suggestions, or concerns.