Student Senate Expects Further Momentum in 2018–2019

After a year of milestones and challenges, Oberlin Student Senate is looking forward to continued progress on a number of initiatives in the next academic year.

“Senate has made many major strides forward as an organization this year,” said Eddy Tumbokon, College first-year and Student Senate Communications Director. “We’re experiencing new degrees of cooperation with the Board [of Trustees], and I think that’s something to be proud of. Senate has also revamped our working group models to a much more structured and intentional framework. Working groups now regularly meet and bring in non-senators, administrators, staff, and community members.”

Among those working groups, the Student Community Working Group is tasked with addressing students’ desires for increased campus unity and a more cohesive community. The group hosted a fish fry in the ’Sco on Thursday and has plans to launch a community service initiative in the fall.

Other working groups are hoping to build stronger resources for students to remain informed about campus changes. The Capital Projects and Campus Infrastructure Working Group is focusing on fostering communication between students and administration regarding Oberlin’s financial issues, while the Career Readiness and Applied Learning for International Students Working Group is administering a preliminary advising survey to gather international students’ perspectives about the types of support available to them on campus.

As for Student Senate, many of its current and future projects are related to the results of its fall 2017 campus climate survey, including addressing student desires for more campus community and requests for time and activities in, and access to Cleveland.

“Next year Senate will focus on being responsive to students’ identified needs in our referendum,” Tumbokon said. “We also want to use our platform to support all campus events built towards creating great campus community and student culture, [as well as] continuing to tackle head-on some of the deficiencies in our student government system, and hopefully, develop a platform or solution that is congruent with Oberlin values and running a functional system of representation.”

The survey indicated that students are dissatisfied with current campus resources, prompting Student Senate to look at ways to change how students interact not just with the campus, but also with the College’s surrounding area.

“Some of the clear changes that came about as a result of the survey are the institution recognizing a need for greater transportation and mobility around Northeast Ohio,” Tumbokon said. “The reality is that we’re not in the middle of nowhere — we’re very close to a major national metropolitan city.”

In addition to plans Senate hopes to pursue as an organization, individual senators are continuing to work on their own goals. Last month, Senate Sexual Health Liaison Kirsten Mojziszek held a listening session for students to express concerns and critiques about the College’s Title IX policy and compiled the feedback into a document to present the Title IX Policy Review Committee.

“We took some time to discuss what we could feasibly respond to, what we could change and what was bound by legal obligations, and how we could make the language of the policy clearer to avoid misunderstandings,” Mojziszek said of the listening session in an email to the Review. “We also had a conversation about what we could do to ensure that students feel they are educated on the policy and how faculty and staff could make efforts to open up dialogue.”

When the Committee decides on final recommendations they will be presented to Student Senate and the General Faculty Committee for approval. Discussions on the policy are ongoing, and Mojziszek encouraged students to contact her or the Title IX Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion with any thoughts or concerns.

“Community participation in this process is key,” she said.

In addition to the Title IX Policy review, Mojziszek will be reframing the Oberlin Bystander Initiative program for fall 2018. OBI trainings will be given to first-years throughout new student orientation, replacing the online substance-abuse education course new students were required to complete in years past.

“I am really excited about this project because it allows us to focus on what healthy consumption can look like and how students can keep themselves and their community safe,” Mojziszek wrote. Students who are interested in becoming an OBI Bystander or leading one of the training workshops are encouraged to contact Mojziszek at [email protected].

“To us, what has been most impressive and inspiring to watch is our colleagues’ commitment to finding opportunities for growth and improvement even in times of fiscal constraint,” Kameron Dunbar, Senate chair, and Cecilia Wallace, Senate vice chair jointly said in Senate’s April update to President Ambar and Senior Staff. “We look forward to our continued work in building a better student experience, and in turn a better Oberlin.”