Senate Welcomes Collaboration with Student Body

 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.

It has been 45 days since we received the “Congratulations new senators!” email. Since then, my life has gotten busier than I could have ever imagined. As a senator without an internal position, I will be required to be a part of a committee, attend the general faculty members, hold office hours, be a part of a working group, attend Senate’s weekly Plenary Meeting every Sunday night from 7-9:30 p.m., and attend most Senate-sponsored events. When I was elected as Communications Director, that meant that on top of all my general Senate priorities, I would have to send out the Senate Weekly email, manage Senate’s social media accounts, attend media sessions, have meetings with administrators, chair the communications working group, and write the Senate Review Column. The purpose of listing all of that is not to complain or boast about the amount of things that are on my plate, instead, I mean to highlight the question, “Why in the world would a Conservatory transfer student take on all of that?” 

I am on Senate because I found that a large portion of my first year here was spent calling my mom and complaining to her about an unsatisfactory trip to the dining hall, or how every office that I would go to was an organizational mess. I was unable to go a day without pointing out how something that could have been done more efficiently, or how the communication problems faced by the different offices on campus could be fixed. Common responses were: “Joshua, can’t you just transfer again?” or “Just keep your head down, get your degree and skedaddle!” However, I wanted to try something other than these methods. I wanted to try to hear other sides to the story of our campus, and find out how our systems run on campus and why they run that way. 

Being a part of Senate is all about teamwork. It is our responsibility to remember that we are part of a whole student body and a whole institution. The role of the Student Senate is to navigate between the administration and our fellow peers. We look to inform our colleagues in the College and Conservatory of the information that we are receiving. Along with informing, we are also responsible for collaborating with all students. The decisions that are made affect every student in one way or another, so it is important that we have input from our compadres. 

As a transfer student, I was caught off guard by the workload that I had acquired as a student here as opposed to my old institution. Our individual busyness poses an impediment in our attempts at making progress in the different areas in our lives. My answer to our individual busyness is comradery and compromise. We must look at fostering relationships where we care about the person whom we are working with so much that we are willing to walk the extra distance to meet that person who might have a valuable perspective. This way, we might encounter new experiences of our own that will expand our own knowledge and interests. 

Student feedback is crucial for Senate to be able to represent the student body as Oberlin begins to go through changes. Positive feedback for Senate is always great to hear, but negative feedback is also crucial. Learning about the negative ways in which students viewed Senate sparked my interest in writing this piece, in order to encourage feedback and collaboration. However, along with learning the negative ways that Senate may be looked at, I was also made aware of moments of high tension between Student Senate and the rest of the student body. Examining how controversial matters have been handled, I would like to do my part in speaking about how these matters can be handled productively.

As senators, we should look to make ourselves present in the experiences of all students. However, when it comes to giving feedback, I think that it is best that Obies present our opinions on what is going on, and along with that, present ideas or ways in which we can fix the problem, or mitigate the negative effects. Without that second part, feedback and criticism can quickly get antagonistic. As we navigate through this time of change for Oberlin, there are many discussions and decisions that need to take place. Senate’s role in that is to speak for the students, and represent the student body accurately. However, unless we are knowledgeable of everyone’s perspective that we are speaking for, we can only go off what we currently know. 

So in this, I encourage you, my Oberlin family, to get involved. Talk to us, join committees or working groups, attend our individual office hours, come to our weekly plenary meetings, read the weekly email. We are looking to better represent and unify our campus from the knowledge that we have, but we can do it more effectively if we have input from all of you. So now, the ball is in your court. In previous column pieces in the Review, the goals of individuals senators were listed. You are now aware of who we are and what we do. I hope that gives everyone an idea of our intentions. Now, it’s your turn!