A Demographic Analysis of Student Senate

Jewell Quad, October 1, 2020. Photo courtesy of photos.jewell.edu.

William Jewell College’s Student Senate has now confirmed all members for the 2020-21 school year. Despite commitments to increase independent student representation, members of Greek Life comprise an unrepresentative majority on Student Senate. A majority of senators were nominated by the current Student Senate Cabinet, which itself is composed entirely of members of Greek Life.

The Cabinet, elected Oct. 2, consists of Olivia Eggleston, senior nonprofit leadership and Applied Critical Thought and Inquiry major, as president; Tavarus Pennington, junior communication and English major, as vice president; Grace Garbe, junior communication and nonprofit leadership major, as secretary; and Ireland Hawkins, senior accounting major, as treasurer.

Elections for student senators were set to begin Oct. 5 and conclude Oct. 6. Only four students ran for senator positions and all four were consequently installed. Three who ran for student senator positions were first-years: Calvin Heit, Oxbridge institutions and policy major; Chloe McDonnell, Oxbridge history of ideas major and Luke Zahnd, Oxbridge institutions and policy major. Sophomore Gabrielle Fournier, Spanish and international relations major, also ran and was installed.

The remaining 12 student senators were to be nominated by the Cabinet and approved by the Senate.

“The executive cabinet shall appoint a full-time William Jewell student to fill any vacant seat. The appointee shall be approved by a simple majority vote of the senate,” the Senate constitution states.

 The platforms and debate points of recent campaigns for Student Senate promised to increase representation in the senate. These efforts came in response to increased demand for more inclusion in Senate. Previous processes of appointment have been criticized for senators appointing those in their social circles – leading to unrepresentative Student Senates.

“The process has historically been pretty informal and varies with not a great deal of consistency,” said Eggleston. “That said, filling Senate positions have been effective. The cabinet has expressed concerns about making sure there is a diverse population of students that have roles as Student Senators and having a more formal process makes sense [as opposed to] word of mouth or random nominations.”

As a result, the cabinet established guidelines for their appointment process.

“Students that exhibit effective leadership skills and are passionate about creating a positive environment is a good start. Student Senate takes a lot of time, so making sure candidates understand the time commitment is an expectation that has to be understood. It’s not hard to find Students with these qualities at William Jewell… We are nimble enough that good talent is noticeable. We just need to make sure we can get good talent to join our effort and we feel our peers will want to do so based on this cabinet demonstrating that everyone has a voice and we want to make William Jewell the place to be,” said Eggleston.

All members of the Cabinet are involved in Greek Life, and during the annual Student Senate debate they were asked about how the Senate would remain representative as a majority of students on campus are independent. They responded that they planned to intentionally appoint independent students but also emphasized that representation need not be one-to-one.

All of the sophomore senators, one of the four junior senators and three of the four senior senators are members of Greek Life. First-years have not had the opportunity to decide whether or not they will join Greek Life.

Of the senators nominated by the Cabinet, five are independent and seven are members of Greek Life. Of the 20 total students on Student Senate, 12, or 60 percent, are members of Greek Life. This percentage may increase if first-year senators choose to join Greek Life. Of those who have already had the option to join Greek Life, 75 percent of senators are in Greek Life – despite the campus having a majority of independent students and the Cabinet’s claims to have a more structured nomination process.

The first-year student senators are Heit, McDonnell, Zahnd and Hattie Miller, international relations major.

The sophomores are Carly Mantia, biology major; Christian Santiago, history and political science major; Claire Henry, digital media communication major; and Fournier.

The juniors are Hailey Wall, psychological science major; Jacqueline Mikkelsen, English major; Ky Schardein, Oxbridge institutions and policy and international relations major; and Kylie Phipps, nonprofit leadership major.

The senior senators are Garrett Peoples, business administration, accounting and Applied Critical Thought and Inquiry major; Madison Carroll, Oxbridge institutions and policy and international relations major; Anthony Hansen, nonprofit leadership and business administration major and Megan Sprague, psychological science and nonprofit leadership major.

Catherine Dema

Catherine Dema is the page editor for Features & Investigations on The Hilltop Monitor. She is a senior majoring in Oxbridge: History of Ideas and physics.

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