New Senate President Anticipates Greater Student Engagement
What the Undergraduate Student Senate deals with may seem mundane. Budgets. Contracts. Policy. Yawn.
But, then again, the Student Senate touches on nearly every aspect of student life—from who gets the contract to make meals at the UC, to (perhaps) purchasing and placing some large overhead heaters for the UC so that students can stay outdoors during the rainy months, much like how restaurants adapted to COVID by creating warm, cozy outdoor spaces to keep patrons content.
Heck, at the USS’s first meeting of the term, they voted on the Student Senate Budget for the 2022-2023 year—and, according to USS Advisor Steve Klein, purchased a new school van (to replace one that had really high miles on it). Klein noted that the USS had “(We had) quite a bit of carryover money because we haven’t been doing as much programming [due to COVID].” It may not set off fireworks, but those types of decisions and purchases change the very quality of student life.
In a recent interview with The Pacific Index, the new USS President Ava Johnson chimed in to explain that other expenditures may be even more visible—like a new mascot costume.
“I really want a new mascot costume,” Johnson said, “because I feel like having the mascot at sports events is fun, and people can take pictures with Boxer. We’re the only Boxer in the United States. Right now, the mascot costume is not 100% well liked on campus. People think it looks funny. It’s not representative of what we want our mascot to look like. . . We also want to make the costume a little taller so that it can fit more people.”
As the new school year settles in, including the first Student Senates meetings for the term, it does appears as if a new chapter is opening. It is especially notable as COVID put a lid on much of campus life—and Student Senate was no exception. Student Senate oversees budgeting and policy for many student organizations, but the pandemic brought lots of student organizations to a grinding halt.
But, as students return to a (new) normal, Johnson is excited to report that students are asking how to get involved in student government. Now in her senior year at Pacific, Johnson said, “my goal is to enhance the community on campus because when I was choosing a school, it was right before COVID hit and I really loved the community of Pacific. Our theme this year is ‘We Are One’ because we want to build back the community of us being one group together.”
Johnson stressed that the USS’s purpose is to listen to what students need and make those needs heard on the University Council, the “three-legged stool” of the Undergraduate Student Senate, the Faculty Senate, and the Staff Senate.
While the USS does deal with policies, they work more with “recommendations.” Johnson said, “Most policies are proposed by students.” She continued, “One that’s come up multiple times is parking. We’ve been working on parking for a long time”; in particular, finding overnight parking spaces has presented the greatest challenge, but students have also voiced concerns about feeling safe walking to their cars at night. A recent meeting with the Director of Facilities at Pacific found that half of lot P and all of lot J are newly approved for overnight parking. Johnson said improving lighting on campus will also be a priority this year.
The USS has five elected voting members, the non-voting administrative assistant, and fourteen non-voting, appointed representatives from various student organizations, associations, and boards such as the Nā Haumāna O Hawai‘I club, the Student Athletic Advisory Committee, the Residence Hall Association, and more.
The USS also brings in guests who provide information that representatives can then share with their constituents, whose feedback later informs the Student Senate’s decisions. The first guest was the university meal company Bon Appetit, and the new University President Jenny Coyle will be a guest at the Student Senate’s October 6 meeting. — Lane Johnson