Students Should Have High Hopes for New Senate

Coming back from studying abroad last semester, I felt invigorated — I was ready to help improve campus and the Oberlin student experience. This feeling has been heightened by the recent election of new student senators, who seem similarly energized. All the new senators bring unique perspectives and valuable skills to Student Senate. That being said, there’s some work that I’m particularly excited about.

Firstly, I’m very excited about the overarching goal adopted by these new senators: transparency. Transparency is absolutely necessary to gain a better understanding of the work the senators do and the ways in which they can support students. I’ve attended several listening sessions run by senators in the past, and I hope they continue offering similar opportunities this semester. These opportunities are what will ensure that Senate continues to be as transparent as possible with their fellow students.

Further, I’m very much looking forward to seeing the work that Senate working groups will accomplish this semester. Any student can join these groups, which include the Campus Community Working Group, the Student Wellness Working Group, the Winter Term Working Group, the Campus Dining Working Group, and the Communications Working Group. If you’re interested in attending future meetings, you can reach out to Student Senate or individual senators for meeting times and locations.

One group that I hope will be particularly impactful is the Campus Dining Working Group, led by Student Senator and College first-year Renzo Mayhall. Though I understand the financial reasoning behind consolidating dining halls, many students — myself included — find the remaining food options aren’t up to par.

I’ve been particularly disappointed by DeCafé. DeCafé is one of the most convenient food options for busy students because of its central location and its grab-and-go options. However, it remains inaccessible due to limited food options for people with dietary restrictions and exorbitant prices.

I was upset upon my return to campus to find that only certain foods and beverages could be purchased using a meal swipe. Given the lack of options, I often find it difficult to put together nutritious, filling meals without going over the $7.50 price of a meal swipe — especially because I’m vegetarian. I also find the packaging at DeCafé to be extremely wasteful — i.e., the pizza boxes, the sandwich and side dish containers, and the plastic bags available at checkout.

In terms of the overall dining experience, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that students are no longer limited to one swipe per meal. We can now swipe multiple times to cover the cost of another student’s meal. Unfortunately though, this option is only available under certain dining plans — the most costly ones. I’m hoping this issue, along with my other grievances with DeCafé, can be addressed by the Campus Dining Working Group.

Another working group I’m excited about is the Winter Term Working Group, lead by Student Senator and College sophomore Bridget Smith. I feel very fortunate to go to a school that offers the unique experience of Winter Term. Winter Term gives students a chance to explore opportunities outside of regular course offerings, emphasizing creativity and experiential learning.

Yet, just like my experience with campus dining, I’ve found that Winter Term can be inaccessible for many students. A student or group may have a great idea, but struggle to find the resources to pursue it. For example, I had difficulty finding affordable housing in D.C. after I was accepted into the Congressional Winter Term Internship. Furthermore, I’ve also found it somewhat difficult to find good Winter Term opportunities since the month does not align with typical intern seasons. I’m hoping the Winter Term Working Group can help streamline this process, or perhaps help direct students toward good Winter Term opportunities.

Overall, I’m thrilled with the work Student Senate has already done, and I feel confident entrusting my concerns to such competent, committed students. If Student Senate brings the same care and effort to campus dining and Winter Term improvements that it has to transparency, the student body will be in good hands.