Senate Supports Students In the Face of Institutional Change

This article is part of the Review’s Student Senate column. In an effort to increase communication and transparency, student senators will provide personal perspectives on recent events on campus and in the community.

Since completing its election process in September, Student Senate has begun working on a slew of tasks: continuing previous semesters’ work with career-related advising for international students, taking steps to improve transparency with the student body, and advocating for students in response to many of the new dining changes on campus this semester. Senators have divided themselves into five different working groups as a way of divvying up tasks and tackling broader topics, including Health and Wellness, Campus Dining, Campus Community, Communications, and Applied Learning and Career Readiness for International Students. These working groups meet regularly and are open to the public. Point people for each working group are listed on the Senate bulletin board outside of the Rathskeller.

Recently, through the work of College junior and Student Senator Priyanka Sen, two question-and-answer sessions were held for student representatives to talk about their work and to answer any questions students may have had. These sessions were jointly organized by Student Senate and the Oberlin Conservatory Council of Students, whose members include senior Emma Churchill, double-degree junior Cordelia Mutter, double-degree senior Eilish Spear, and double-degree junior Amber Scherer. The Q&A sessions were held Friday, Oct. 12 in the McGregor Skybar and on Wednesday, Oct. 17 in Wilder Hall and were well-attended.

Through collaboration between the two branches of student government, but particularly due to the tireless work of those on Conservatory Council, a permanent grab-and-go lunch option has been installed in the Skybar, operating Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

The Student Senate Campus Dining Working Group, led by College sophomore Patrick Powers, has continued collaborating with both students and Campus Dining Services administrators to make dining on campus a more enjoyable and accessible experience for all. So far, achievements include small changes to the DeCafé grab-and-go menu, broader swipe options, and opening Stevenson Dining Hall’s balcony to students, among other things. These steps have been made possible by student representation at open Dining Committee meetings every Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. in Stevenson.

Looking forward, Powers says that he’s hoping to “improve the way that students interact with and give feedback to CDS online. This means streamlining the website interface, phasing in a text-based feedback system, and boosting CDS’s social media presence so that special programs and menu items can be publicized.”

Also in the world of dining, Senate’s appointed Sustainability Liaisons, College sophomore Austin Ward and College senior Brian James, have both been regularly attending Dining Committee meetings to emphasize the importance of sustainability. Tangible changes have been made already — DeCafé has reduced its plastic consumption by switching over to the use of more paper materials. Ward and James both plan on working with the newly appointed CDS student ambassadors to create and implement responsible recycling and composting campaigns around campus.

The Health and Wellness working group, led by College senior Kirsten Mojziszek, has continued to support student initiatives such as Oberlin Mental Health Alliance and Oberlin Bystander Intervention in order to promote student wellness and safety. The working group is hoping to advocate for more staff in Disability Resources this year and plans on running a healthy habits campaign as well.
In order to address communication issues between Senate and the student body and make opportunities for involvement, the Communications Working Group, which I facilitate, has set its sights on a revitalized social media presence, publicizing Senate office hours, and encouraging student participation in working groups. There are lots of ways for students to get involved: Senate holds plenary sessions, open for anyone to attend, every Sunday from 7–9:30 p.m in Wilder 215. Additionally, senators hold office hours in Azariah’s Café every Monday through Friday from 9–10 p.m. Working groups meet throughout the week, and contact information for those groups or individual senators can be found in the Senate directory or through information posted to the aforementioned Senate bulletin board.

This semester has proven to be a productive one so far. Senators remain committed to Oberlin students and are currently in the process of planning a Constituents’ Week, in addition to an end-of-the-semester event, organized by the Campus Community Working Group. Remain on the lookout for these upcoming events!