Student Senate pauses operations in wake of pandemic, elections delayed until fall

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2019-2020 Student Senate cabinet.

In a campus-wide email sent April 9, William Jewell College’s Student Senate cabinet announced that Student Senate campaigning and elections would be postponed to the fall of 2020. In addition, Mario Magana, Jr., 2019-2020 Senate Vice President and sophomore business administration major, was named acting president pending the fall elections. 

Student Senate ceased operations following Jewell’s transition to online classes and closure of campus. Hannah Keeney, 2019-2020 Senate President and senior psychological science and Applied Critical Thought and Inquiry major, noted that virtual operation of Senate would be limited at best. Magana said the Student Senate cabinet has deferred much of their regular responsibilities to College administration but still remain active in virtual campus task forces.

“Although Student Senate is responsible for representing the student body, this is a circumstance where we must trust in school administration to make executive decisions for the good of the students, as well as maintain academic integrity,” Magana said. “However, Student Senate is made-up of students with valuable on campus connections. So, even if we have not formally contributed to policy proposals, our presence and voice is available to our task-groups and committees.” 

Keeney mentioned that the cessation of Senate operations cut some major initiatives short – particularly plans for a food pantry for students – but she remains optimistic that first-year, sophomore and junior senators will be able to implement the plans in the coming year. 

One final Senate meeting was held digitally following spring break. Decisions about postponement and the designation of Magana as acting president were made in conjunction with class senators and Senate’s staff advisors, Dean of Students Shelly King and Associate Dean of Students Ernie Stufflebean.

“I feel at home by taking on the role of President, but I definitely feel the added pressure of continuing my term through these difficult times. I always have the best in mind for my fellow Cardinals, so that part of me will make it easy to proceed. It’s also exciting as I see this as an opportunity to demonstrate more leadership on campus and familiarize myself further with the school’s operations. I am very honored to be able to assume such responsibilities, especially when it matters most,” Magana said.  

As far as his plans go for his tenure as acting president, Magana’s only plans for the remainder of the academic year are to check back in with senators for input about how the year has gone and any other concluding thoughts they may have. Then, over the summer, Magana plans to reach out to connect with students and listen to any questions and concerns they may have had while Senate operations were halted. When school starts again in August, Magana’s primary focus will be to head a fluid transition of Senate back into campus life. He has plans to prepare an outline of issues that a new cabinet can immediately address. 

As far as plans for the fall elections go, Magana is prioritizing the smooth, comfortable transition of students back to the flow of campus life. Once students get settled, which Magana estimates will take approximately two weeks, he will release a finalized election timeline and notify students that they may start assembling their cabinets. After a week-long campaigning period, voting will take place and the new cabinet will be announced. 

Magana added that, despite their presence on campus at the time of elections, the Class of 2024 will not be eligible to run for Student Senate cabinet.

“These are already uneasy times and the transition is complicated as is. For this all to be done properly, we need people who are familiar with the school, students, and campus life. Although, I do highly encourage incoming [first-years] to run for a class Senator position,” Magana said. 

As Magana looks to the future of Senate, senior Hannah Keeney looks back at the abrupt end to her tenure as Senate president. Keeney was invited to be a student representative on Jewell’s Emergency Task Force in response to COVID-19. At an initial meeting, she felt alarmed by the rapidity with which COVID-19 disrupted university operations worldwide. 

“[I]t was easy to see the writing on the wall. My gut told me when I left for Spring Break that I wouldn’t be coming back anytime soon. For that reason, I packed up most of my items and fit as much as I could in my car to take home permanently. While there are many angles to speak from in the ways that COVID-19 has [affected] my senior year – the Senate presidency was certainly one of the most devastating. I felt as though we had finally started to get our groove as a Senate body and were making progress in tiny – but important – improvements around campus. I am saddened to think about projects cut short but am hopeful some of them can be carried forward by the next Senate body,” Keeney said. 

In a final statement, Magana praised the College for its decision-making during the pandemic. 

“Ultimately, I think every decision made has been for the best. These times are difficult for a lot of people, and we could only wish things could be normal. In an ideal situation, everyone is on campus, graduation is as planned, and the year is what we want it to be. However, I think Jewell has reacted appropriately and with empathy. I am very proud to be able to represent the Student Body for the meantime and I am excited to see how we transition into better days,” Magana said. 

In Keeney’s final remarks, she emphasized her confidence in Magana to lead the student body during this transitional period. 

“Mario will do an excellent job in assisting in the cabinet transition and striving to remain objective during the process,” Keeney said.

Christina Kirk

Christina Kirk is the Editor-in-Chief of The Hilltop Monitor. She is a senior majoring in Oxbridge: Institutions & Policy and international relations.

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