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Meet Senate’s new vice president, Mary Kate Gallagher

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The New Political’s Carl Soder recently sat down with Mary Kate Gallagher to discuss her return to Student Senate and her vice presidential victory. The conversation below has been edited for grammar and clarity.

The New Political: When you left Student Senate last September, you mentioned some cases about how women were treated in Senate and overall lack of professionalism in Student Senate that displeased you. Is that something you aim to change now that you are back?

Mary Kate Gallagher: As rules and procedures chair for four years, I have a deep understanding for what the rules and procedures are. I really hope to really help our senators and commissioners and vice commissioners and staff people to follow the rules to the way that they were written. I really think that is going to help with professionalism. A complete culture shift is hard to reach in not even 15 weeks, but I will definitely try to change culture as much as I can.  I’m going to encourage change in the future, but really just try to teach people the way this body is supposed to be run.

TNP: Have a lot of the harassment that you have seen come within meeting or behind closed doors or in media? Where do you usually find that?

MKG: Just a little bit of everywhere. I’m not really comfortable in elaborating on that right now.

TNP: Have you been monitoring Senate in your absence at all? It seemed like you were pretty prepared today speaking. Have you been keeping tabs on things that have been going on?

MKG: Yes, I have been keeping close tabs on senate. I’ve tried to attend as many Senate meetings as I could after my resignation. I really think it’s really important that students know what is going on in Senate. Reaching out to people in an unofficial role was really important to me as well just to bring that perspective back to Senate.

TNP: I know you are just coming back right now. You ran for vice president, won, and were moved into Senate to take the position through a special process. Were you already planning on coming back to Student Senate anyways or did you hop at the chance (or were you enticed?) by the open spot for vice president?

MKG: I wouldn’t necessarily say I hopped at the chance at taking the spot. I did notice that there were some fundamental issues with Senate in the understanding of the rules and procedures within Senate. I really think it’s important for the younger members of senate to learn the rules and have opportunities as well.

TNP: So you were seeking to become involved, anyways.

MKG: Yeah, not really as vice president but more as an educational tool. I’m back!

TNP: Are you excited to get start working on the student recommendation process with the trustees? Have you been thinking about that a lot recently?

MKG: Yeah, I have been thinking about it. I’ve sat on the committee before. I’ve never served as chair though because I’ve never been vice president before until now.

TNP: You must be pretty startled you won. Did you just throw in your hat in the race to see what would happen?

MKG: Pretty much. It was an internal vote when I put my name in, and I was just to challenge Senate to have them really look at who they are electing, that the person really knows what is going on.

TNP: You have always been involved in student political life here on campus. You have always been in office; did you ever see yourself rising to this point?

MKG: No. All I really wanted to be was university life commissioner and I was that last year.

TNP: Are you ready for the responsibility that come with the role of vice president?

MKG: I think I’m really ready. Vice president isn’t necessarily a policy-dictating role. Vice president really is just someone who is there to support the senators and what they are doing, to educate them, and chair the student trustee committee. My first priority is really getting in and meeting with each person in Senate to really learn what they are doing and learn how to support them. The second is the trustee committee. That is really important to fill the vacant seat on the trustee committee.

TNP: Can you explain how the trustee committee works?

MKG: A number of students apply. Then the committee screens these students and really helps to narrow down the selection of the students. Then they send five students to the governor’s office. Then the governor’s office will select the ones for interview.

I also want to meet with the commissioners and go over the rules. There are some parts of the rules that really need changing.

TNP: Any to highlight? Are there any flaws that you see?

MKG: I wouldn’t necessarily call them flaws. Rules and procedures in a constitution are a living document in my mind. Just as a child learns and grows and as a person learns and grows, so do these rules and procedures in Student Senate. There are things that we are doing now that need to be changed. I think that as a body we need to look at the rules really critically, in a way that we haven’t in a long time.

TNP: So you want to revisit the rulebook and look at it with a fresh set of eyes and see what we need and what we don’t need?

MKG: Yes, exactly.

TNP:  You said before you left you were excited to see where Student Senate would become after you left. Do you think there has been any progression in your absence with your goals? Or has it been stagnant?

MKG:  I wouldn’t call it stagnant. There has been growth in change, but I would say there is still growth that needs to happen. Like everything, there is always growth that needs to happen.

TNP: What have you been doing in your absence?

MKG: I have an internship with residential housing. What I do is I work with the housing ambassadors program. It’s a great program of first- and second-year students that show their rooms to incoming and first-year students. So I’ve really been working with those students. I’ve made some critical connections with some of those on-campus students.

TNP: Did you advocate getting into student government as a way to find a voice?

MKG: Absolutely. I encouraged all of them to get involved from the beginning.

TNP: You must have really enjoyed that work.

MKG: I do.

TNP: Now that you have been elected, do you think the faith in you has been restored? Have people been supportive?

MKG: I think so. There have been members who have supported me on my way here.

TNP: You must be excited. Anything else you would like to add?

MKG: I would really like to encourage that anyone who is thinking about applying for student trustee to apply. The more candidates that we have, the more diverse people, the better.

TNP: Thank you very much for your time.

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