Vice president external realizes goal of affecting change

Jason Webber, graduate student and vice president of the Illinois Student Senate, poses at the RSO desk in the Union on Thursday. Beck Diefenbach

Jason Webber, graduate student and vice president of the Illinois Student Senate, poses at the RSO desk in the Union on Thursday. Beck Diefenbach

By Michael Logli

When graduate student Jason Webber first came to the University his freshman year, he had no intention of being in the Illinois Student Senate. Now, it is his second term as the vice president external.

“I thought it was just large elections and it would be all political science majors talking about how to coordinate homecoming dances,” Webber said. “My first year as a grad, a friend told me the senate seats are proportional by college, so I ran and I got in.”

As the vice president external, Webber is one of the three people that speak to the administration on behalf of the senate. Webber also oversees all interaction between the student senate and any organization outside of the University. Webber is also the head of two student senate committees: the Committee on Outreach and the Committee on Academic Affairs. Outreach works to promote the other senate committees’ actions and recruit people for senate programs. Academic Affairs works with the Educational Policy Committee in the Urbana-Champaign Senate to decide the curriculum taught each year, Webber said.

In his previous term, Webber worked to get students to realize the senate’s presence, he said. To do this, Webber decided to videotape the ISS meetings and get them on television and their Web site, http://www.iss.uiuc.edu.

“The biggest struggle is letting students know we’re here for them,” Webber said. “By televising meetings, it gives them a second opportunity (to get involved).”

Televising meetings seems to add greater legitimacy to the student senate’s actions, Webber said. Webber also said he believes the tapings have allowed other political groups like the Champaign City Council to keep track of proposed student senate resolutions and propose laws accordingly, with the most recent example being the new ban on the use of spray chalk.

“We can effect change at the university,” Webber said.

Webber has many plans for his next term. One of these plans involves getting the senate more money by borrowing money from the Student Organization Research Fee fund, he said. Webber said he recently polled the student body and students were in favor of this initiative by a two to one margin.

“One of my biggest goals is to allow us to get SORF funds because it will allow us to expand our budget without asking the university for more money outright,” Webber said. “This is something worth doing.”