Illinois Student Senate plans for new year

By Paul Biasco

While the Pine Lounge, the meeting place of the Illinois Student Senate, sits vacant under renovation in the Illini Union, the leaders of the senate are already planning for a productive semester.

Jaclyn O’Day, senior in LAS and student body president, said one of the main focuses the senate will try to improve this semester is the transparency of senators’ actions.

“I want to be held accountable to the student body and the senate,” O’Day said.

The first step toward complete transparency of the senate is a revamping of their Web site, which will now openly display whether a senator voted for or against a resolution. This will be possible because senators will be voting with iClickers to keep a record of their individual votes. When the next senate elections come in the spring, students will be able to see how their representatives voted on issues that may have affected them, unlike the past, O’Day said.

“This is your student body, this is who we are, this is how we do things and this is who stands for what,” said Vikram Chaudhery, external vice president and senior in Engineering. “Next election we want people to know what they are getting into.”

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Chaudhery added that one of his biggest responsibilities this year will be making sure the Web site is updated to ensure that all meeting minutes and recorded votes are available to the public.

One of the main issues O’Day hopes to address this semester is campus climate.

“I feel like there is a lot of tension on campus between different religious, racial and ethnic groups,” O’Day said. “We were the only institution at the Big Ten Conference that has this issue.”

The issue of campus climate at the University is the biggest issue on campus, said Anna Gonzalez, associate vice chancellor for student affairs and director of intercultural relations.

“A lot of students from all backgrounds want to get to know other students who are not like them,” Gonzalez said. “That’s the biggest issue: How do we get beyond our own comfort zone?”

Gonzalez said that the I-Unite program, which is headed by her office, aims to spread diversity through campus events in September, including “Dinner & a Movie” nights, featuring films that showcase diversity and explore racial issues. I-Unite members will also perform five-minute skits on diversity between classes, called “Inner Voices on the Quad.”

Another new program O’Day has been working on is “Campus Uncensored?” to better inform students and faculty of their First Amendment rights. The first event is planned for September, featuring an expert on the First Amendment.

“I feel like last year we did a lot of talking that didn’t turn into action,” O’Day said. “I’m really looking forward to making things happen.”