Student senate has big things on its plate

By Andrew Maloney

With discussions last semester ranging from topics such as environmental sustainability, Global Campus and funding for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender programs on campus, it’s easy to see that the members of the Illinois Student Senate encountered a myriad of issues in the fall.

But even as a new semester begins, senate officials say they’re not slowing down. Senate members will have a hand in decisions about contract negotiations with the MTD and University finances.

“The contract negotiations, our lobbying efforts, and another thing is Global Campus,” said Jaclyn O’Day, student body president and senior in LAS. “Saying that we stand by our faculty and that we have several concerns about Global Campus. I think those are three big things we’re going to have to keep on our radar.”

Some members even managed to stay busy with senate business during the final few days of winter break. The ISS played host to the Association of Big Ten Schools conference last weekend, a meeting which brought representatives from seven of the 11 Big Ten schools to campus to share ideas on student government.

“We definitely got a lot of ideas from it,” said Rohit Dhake, vice president of the student senate and senior in Business. “So this semester, we need to look at taking those ideas and pushing them through.”

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Brad Tran, senate treasurer and sophomore in Engineering, said he was also pleased with how the conference turned out. He added that the senate has already improved internally by stabilizing the methods they use to evaluate requests for funding and approving expenditures.

“In the past, the committee on appropriations has been hit-or-miss, and now we’ve established some structure,” Tran said. “But I would like more input from different groups. And one thing that was brought up is looking to get discretionary funds for events that come up quickly.”

Dhake said he believed the senate had also done a good job of remaining organized and discussing key issues. However, he added that the main issues hadn’t always remained in focus.

At times, certain resolutions led to debates about senate bylaws, limitations on how much time each senator could take to address the body, and perhaps even delays that resulted in a loss of quorum.

Dhake added that the senate could make strides this semester by thinking about the larger ramifications of its decisions.

“I think we definitely need to look at the big picture,” Dhake said. “We need to do things that the student body will notice.”

Such things could include a resolution pertaining to the number of out-of-state students that the University admits each year. Additionally, Dhake said an item brought up at the beginning of the year involving a later lease-signing date could affect numerous students.

O’Day said that despite other issues, she believes the upcoming semester will be a successful one.

“In the future I think it’d be nice to hold more programs to reach out to students,” O’Day said. “But I think that a lot of planning has gone into this semester, so it should be fantastic.”