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Has Student Senate measured up to campaign promises?

6 min read

The tuition hike coupled with President McDavis’ pay raise set the atmosphere earlier this year for the Student Senate executives to follow through with their campaign promises of increased student advocacy and affordability. Now at the halfway mark of the academic year, how have they measured up?

Zach George, president of Student Senate, cited two “proactive” Senate initiatives to address affordability concerns: a tuition survey, which nine to 10 percent of the student body completed, and a letter-writing campaign, which voiced concerns over rising tuition to state legislators and urged them to prioritize higher education.

“There’s clearly an identity of the haves and the have-nots here at this university. Either you’re coming out of school owing very little or you’re coming out of school just weighted down by debt,” said George, referring to the survey’s results. “Raising tuition isn’t going to help those figures.”

Responding to calls for student advocacy, Treasurer Evan Ecos pointed to several Senate initiatives to bring administrators and students closer together.

“I think it’s important to make sure there are forums much like the open office hours for students to interact,” he said. “One of our commissioners has worked towards bringing the provost, Pam Benoit, into a dining hall. For two and a half, three hours, Dr. Benoit walked around, talked to students, answered some ‘what’s-your-background’ kinds of questions, but also some tough questions as well.”

According to Ecos, Senate also brought members of the Board of Trustees to Nelson dining hall to mingle with the students.

“There was just such great interaction and a lot of serious questions and concerns and thoughts. I thought it was a wonderful experience, and I know we’re going to do it again in the future,” he said.

Senate also intends to connect state legislators with students by bringing them to campus.

“At the end of the day, the legislators in our state capital are the ones who decide if the budget’s going up or if it’s going down,” Ecos said.

In an update on the promised “Chipotle standard,” which would allow students to use their meal plans uptown, George reiterated that the project will take time.

“A lot of people seemed very receptive to the idea… Now it’s a matter of convincing the university that this is something students want, something that is sustainable, something that can make the university money, too,” he said.

The Senate executives also emphasized sustainability while campaigning, with Ecos promising less plastic bags in campus markets and more smart lights in residential housing. While the smart lights, Ecos said, will be used in the new facilities on South Green, they are difficult to implement quickly.

With regards to plastic bags, however, Ecos foresees a much speedier success.

“I foresee us within the next year or so fulfilling that campaign promise, even if we’re technically not in office,” he said.

In addition to providing each incoming student with a renewable bag, he hopes to educate students about the harmful effects of plastic and other non-biodegradable materials.

Having stressed diversity and inclusion during the election, Ecos said, “We’ve made it a priority in meetings with administration to make sure that they understand the importance of our diversity centers on campus.”

Vice President Amrit Saini, fulfilled his promise of updating the Senate website, making it “more intuitive” and “just better.” In an effort to facilitate those students looking for something to do, Saini is currently creating an event calendar for the website, which will consolidate events hosted by student organizations on one webpage.


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