Last month, Student Senate engaged in a variety of unique projects in addition to its regular duties. On Nov. 19, Senate hosted a forum discussion to explore the issue of student hunger during term breaks. Given that many students do not have the resources to return home during fall, winter or spring break, a sizable portion instead stays on campus. Dining halls are not open during these periods, which can make it difficult to feed oneself. Furthermore, not all co-ops are fully functional during this time period either.
Students and community members came together during the forum to discuss possible ways to make food accessible to all students who remain on campus during breaks. A few students mentioned the possibility of using Hall Council funds, provided through ResEd, to purchase food and host meals in various dorms. Several community members suggested that local religious organizations would be interested in hosting and preparing meals for students on break. Student Senate has formed a task force on the issue and will continue to solicit community input in the future with the aim of producing policy recommendations for spring break of 2015.
Senate also heard two Student Finance Committee appeal cases from student organizations regarding stipends this past month. Organizations can appeal the budget allocation decisions made by the SFC if they feel that the decision was made in an “unfair or arbitrary manner.” In November, two organizations, Wilder Voice and The Oberlin Review, submitted budget appeals following the reduction of their stipend allocations. Following an appeal hearing, Senate declined Wilder Voice’s appeal and upheld The Oberlin Review’s. Full minutes covering the discussion and details of both appeal hearings can be found on Senate’s website.
On Dec. 1, Vice President for Finance and Admission Mike Frandsen held an open-forum presentation on the state of Oberlin’s finances. The event was held in part as a response to widespread student requests for greater transparency in the Strategic Planning process. Frandsen categorized the components of Oberlin’s annual budget during the presentation. He also discussed projected forecasts regarding future student enrollment and subsequent implications for annual costs and revenues. The full presentation can be found on Student Senate’s website.
The Sustainable Transportation working group has worked with the Bike Co-op to install lights on all of its bikes next semester. The group is also close to publishing a sustainable transportation guide that will soon be available to the public. If you have a question regarding sustainable transportation at Oberlin, please contact Senator Nolan Scharper at [email protected]
All Student Senate working groups are still seeking members. Students, faculty, staff and community residents are all welcome to join. The names, duties and contact information for every working group are listed on the Student Senate website. Additionally, Senate will be advertising for openings on General Faculty committees. These committees present a tremendous opportunity for all students to work on school policy in a variety of fields, including but not limited to environmental sustainability, dining services and admissions and financial aid. Please be on the lookout for a recruitment announcement near the beginning of next semester.
Additionally, Senate will be holding elections for open seats near mid- to late February. While it is currently unclear exactly how many seats will be open, a minimum of two new student senators will be elected. If you are interested in working with others to help improve the experience of students, faculty, staff and community members at Oberlin College, I hope that you will consider running. As always, plenary sessions are held every Sunday at 7 p.m. in Wilder 215 and are open to the public. The last plenary session of the year will be held on Dec. 14. Good luck with finals, and have a great Winter Term!