The State of the Student Senate

By Josh Rohrscheib

Student elections are quickly approaching. Soon candidates for Illinois Student Senate will be covering the Quad in chalk and fliers asking you for your vote. Why should you vote? Why should you care? What does the ISS really do?

Some would say the ISS is merely an ineffectual version of a high school student council. Some would say it is a force for positive change endowed with legitimate powers.

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They’re both right. They’re both wrong. In reality, the ISS is whatever its members make of it.

For several years, student government has been a pack of infighting bunglers, and one of the biggest casualties was the publishing of instructor evaluations online. This data hadn’t been used for several years and to save money the administration stopped making the data available.

The ISS Academic Affairs Committee, under the leadership of Brian Pierce, revised the questions and revitalized the process. With the support of the Center for Teaching Excellence, ISS is now publishing instructor evaluation data online at

One of our most ambitious goals is starting an annual Day of Service to unite many diverse groups through a common goal of service and community outreach. This event will take place on Earth Day, April 22, to kick off National Volunteer week. For more information, visit

The Student Senate serves as the first line of defense for students in need. They are, first and foremost, student advocates. The Committee on Student Rights partnered with the Student ACLU to kick off the Know Your Rights (KYR) campaign (

ISS developed info cards on student rights and door hangers with search and seizure information to protect students from police abuse. With key assistance from Housing, these materials were distributed to every student in the residence halls.

Representative bodies have a duty to protect the basic rights of their constituents. One of our most fundamental concerns is maintaining and improving the quality of healthcare on campus.

The Committee on Student Life is working to open McKinley on Sundays. This will save students who are either injured or very ill on Sundays from hefty medical bills from local hospitals. Additionally, last week Student Life took part in National Condom Week by giving out more than 4,000 condoms at campus bars.

Historically, student government lobbies state and local officials on matters of great concern to students.

Our Budget Committee is beginning a letter drive that will give members of the Illinois General Assembly letters from their constituents asking them to increase the funding for the University.

This Wednesday, the Chair of our Governmental Affairs Committee, Justin Cajindos, has organized a trip to Springfield. ISS is supporting a bill that would require the unbundling of textbooks and opposing a bill that would raise interest rates on student loans by privatizing them.

Also this week, on Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Pine Lounge of the Illini Union, the Committee on Cultural and Minority Affairs is hosting a Debate on Affirmative Action with Professor Jim Nowlan and Senior in LAS Billy Joe Mills squaring off against Professor James Anderson and graduate student in Library and Information Science Andre Brock.

My goal in writing this column is not to pat ISS on the back, but instead to give you some idea of the kinds of work we do to advance the interests of students. I hope these examples give you a better of idea of what exactly ISS does and hopefully some of you will read this and want to get more involved.

If you would like to run for ISS you can download a candidate’s packet at You have to fill out paperwork and have petitions signed and have everything turned in by noon on Tuesday.

The most refreshing part about working with the ISS is that literally every member wants to leave the campus better than they found it. This term it has been an honor to lead such a dedicated team of student advocates.

Ultimately, the ISS’s success or failure depends entirely on how dedicated its members choose to be. I challenge you to dive into the bloodstream of this campus and to live with it, rather than simply living at it.

Josh Rohrscheib is a guest columnist and the President of the Illinois Student Senate. He would like you to call him Mr. President and requests that “Hail to the Chief” be played whenever he enters the room. His column appears on Mondays. He can be reached at [email protected]