Mary Luber, editor-in-chief, sat down with the three 2015-2016 Student Senate president candidates: sophomore Bruce Rash, junior Grace Smith and junior Logan Routh.
What do you believe is the main purpose or point of Student Senate?
Rash: I believe that the role of Student Senate is to be the conduit through which each student here is heard. I don’t think Senate is about the voice of senators being heard; it’s about what each and every student here wants. And I think that the point is to make sure those voices are heard and represented, not just in Senate meetings, but in actuality, in discussions with Student Life and in the way that Jewell is run.
Smith: The role of Student Senate is to represent the needs of the students and intentionally seek their opinions so we can better represent them to the surrounding community, faculty and administration. We will additionally provide tools and services to enrich the student experience at Jewell.
Routh: Student Senate is an outlet for students to come . . . to be a way for students to work hand-in-hand with the administration to fix problems on campus that students have. That takes relationships that can connect students with the adminstration and be able to resolve problems and come up with solutions that way.
Reflecting on the actions of the 2014-2015 Student Senate and its cabinet, what is one thing you would change or prioritze differently? How would you improve upon this past year?
Routh: I’ll be honest. When I first started at Jewell, [Student Senate] was pretty much useless, and I wasn’t even involved my freshmen year. I think that is because the cabinets are usually too focused on one thing. So while past leaders – like Alex [Bush] did a great job, but he and his cabinet focused too much one one thing, which was a New York Times subscription. If we [as senators] wanted to work on things, that was fine, but it was not a group effort. This year we have done a little better job of coming together, especially earlier in the year . . . but we have students come to us when they have problems, and that is what we want.
Smith: For the upcoming year, our priority is going to be accomplishing short and medium term projects with tangible results. We’re going to figure out what needs to be done through a process of reflection. Student senators brainstorming and determining what we need to do on campus, what needs we have seen. And then intentially reaching out to campus groups, especially groups that are classically underrepresented on Student Senate, such as student athletes, nursing major and music majors. Some of those group [members] . . . their schedules do not allow for them to come to regular meetings, and we can not let those people be forgotten. A lot of times the groups on Student Senate that represent themselves very well, like the sororities and fraternies, have great self-governance and can advocate for themselves. So part of our priority is going to be reaching out to other groups to see how we can help them as well.
Rash: Well I would say that first of all that Senate under Harry [Schwartz, 2014-2015 Student Senate president] has gotten a lot of really cool things done, and I know that Grace [Smith, candidate for 2015-2016 Student Senate president] worked really hard on . . . really great things, but for the most part they are not really things that people are noticing. And if they are noticing, it is a really niche groups, and I think that we really need to get out there and not only build an awareness of what Senate is going, but also get people way more involved. Like Grace said, there are a lot of groups that are underrepresented, but I don’t think it’s enough to reach out to groups. You have to reach out to individuals and really get to know them on a personal level and learn about them and their lives and what it is they want to see changed. So I think one of the things Senate could do better is to actually get involved and make sure that people know because, from most of the people I’ve talked to, most people don’t even know when and where Senate meets, let alone that they’re allowed to go talk to them. So we need to reach out and learn what people want so when it comes time to make a big decision, like if we should have a smoking ban on campus or any of those things, we can put it up to a student vote so that Student Life can’t tell us ‘no’ to these issues. It’s time for the era of ‘no’ to come to an end, and the only way to get that done is to get the students, every single one, involved.
Looking past services, activities and events, what is one policy change you would push most if you and your cabinet were elected?
Rash: That is a phenomenal question. It all goes back to the core tenant of our campaign platform, which is that any measure that could negatively impact any student on this campus or infringe [upon] their liberties deserves to go to a student body vote, not just a Senate vote. They tell us that being a responsible self is being responsible for your own commmunity, getting involved and [having] a voice but then they deny us that voice. So that needs to change.
Smith: One of the most important policy issues for our cabinet is reconsidering the P.E. requirement for student athletes. This is something where we can bring in a lot of data and examine it. We are looking at how many hours per week do sports teams practice during the offseason, during the inseason and looking at the different aspects of team building and interpersonal relationships and figuring out if those fulfill the class requirements. One thing my cabinet will do is that when we are looking into a policy change, we will study it first, issue a report to Student Senate . . . and then the full Senate and the cabinet can make a decision based on that data. So that is the first thing we’re going to look into because we think that student athletes work really hard and this change could be valuable for their physical wellbeing and their personal development. It may be unnecessary for them to take PE classes with non-student athletes.”
Routh: The smoking policy is definitely the most important. We are also going to once again look at the alcohol policy. This past year we have had senators working on it, and the problem was that it was trying to get the whole thing totally redone at once . . . it is a gradual process that we have to take one step at a time. And we want to really get that started along with the smoking policy because we are responsible adults. We go to William Jewell. We should be able to make our own decisions, so we’ll start to work one step at a time to make those reconsiderations happen.
Rash: Can we talk about the alcohol policy? [Upon confirmation from interviewer] I think the alcohol policy as it stands is not only unfair to students but also a little bit on the ridiculous side. it is unsafe. You’ll see other schools all across the nation that are changing their [polices] to be more open for students, if they’re going to underage drink, leave the door open so someone can make sure that [they are] ok. They’re moving toward safer ways of transitioning people to those more adult activites, and of course they don’t want kids [drinking underage] because it is a violation of federal, or at least state, law. However, those activities are going to happen on a college campus. If you deny that, that’s just ignorant. Although I know we are not going to get the punishments removed for that right away, I think we need to be moving toward an alcohol policy that make sure that people stay safe. And if they’re in serious trouble, I know we tell people to go get help if they feel sick or are in serious trouble or impaired after drinking, but I don’t know a single person who feels safe going up to Dr. Pratt and saying, “Hey, I am really way too drunk and I need help.” No one does that. We need to create an environment where people are abe to say, “I need help and I messed up.”
Smith: In the past, changing the alcohol policy has been a long term project that has absorbed a lot of Student Senate manpower, and I would like to give a few veteran senators the task of writing a comprehensive report on the alcohol policy. [They will be] interviewing students who have interacted with the policy both positively and negatively, RDs, RAs, those responsible for student wellbeing in residence life. Compiling that data and those interviews to see, does there need to be a policy change? And if so, what do those people believe will be the best changes? We don’t want to put a lot of Student Senate manpower into this, as in the past it has distracted us from accomplishing those short and medium term projects with tangible results that are our focus for next year. What we can promise is that we will look into, and we will make our findings will be public.
Routh: So I think a good first step would be limit the restrictions on students who are 21 and are of age who get written up because they have a friend in their room or for having too much alcohol in their fridge. I know last year [Student Senate] worked on making it equal with state laws, and I think that would be fine for 21+ students as long as underage students are not around. And that would be a first step because, like I’ve said, we have to work hand-in-hand with administration. That is something to which they could agree.
The Monitor is going to live-tweet the debate on Monday at Jewell Time. If you were limited to 140 characters, how would you sum up what your cabinet stands for?
Routh: Making changes that affect the entire campus: each and every student
Smith: Our cabinet can get results. We can improve visibility and function of Student Senate because we all have extensive campus leadership experience.
Rash: It’s time for the voice of every single student on this campus to be heard. It’s time to say no more ‘no.’ It’s time for “Rash” decisions.
A debate between the three cabinets will take place Monday, April 20 at 10:15 a.m. in the Yates-Gill Union Atrium. Be sure to look through the cabinet profiles on the Hilltop Monitor Facebook page and follow along during the debate on Twitter at @MonitorWJC.