February Senate Update

Machmud Makhmudov and Megs Bautista

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Student Senate has started off the semester diligently working on making the grass visible again; we’re glad to say that we’ve finally succeeded. You’re welcome. This rapid improvement in our efficiency is in no small part due to the election of seven new senators — all of whom were chosen in an election that saw the highest level of voter participation since the 2010–2011 school year.

While we are thrilled about this tremendous spike in voter participation, we must recognize the relationship between this spike and the immensely talented and diverse pool of candidates who ran for Student Senate this semester. We are proud to share that Senators and College first-years Arianna Crawford and Deborah Johnson, College junior Rachel Weinstein and College senior Molly Brand join Senator Megs Bautista, College senior, and College first-year Anjali Kolachalam, increasing the representation of cis women on Senate from 13.3–20 percent (shout out to de facto Senator and College junior Sara Ebb) to 40 percent this semester. Additionally, Senators College junior Darrell Davis and College sophomore Peace Iyiewuare join Senators and College junior Machmud Makhmudov, Bautista and Kolachalam, increasing representation of people of color on Senate from 20 percent to 46.6 percent. When compared to last semester’s Senate, in which 10 seats were filled by white cis men, the spring 2015 Senate is a marked improvement in terms of traditionally underrepresented groups assuming positions of leadership on Senate.

In addition to the seven new senators, six new representatives for the Strategic Planning Steering Committee were chosen as well, three through the election and three through Senate appointments. Similarly to Senate, we saw the election of three Black cis women to the Strategic Planning Steering Committee through the student election process. We agree with the student body that the students elected — College junior Sophie Umazi Mvurya, College first-year Nina Pulley and College sophomore Jasmine Anderson — will illuminate some of the issues low-income students and students of color are concerned about, as well as bring added energy, passion, creativity and dynamic critical analysis to the Committee. Additionally, College sophomore Sarah Minion and College junior Avalon McKee increase the representation of cis women on the Steering Committee. We look forward to working with the student body and members of the Steering Committee to ensure that the College’s planning process is transparent and inclusive.

Senators held a forum last semester and heard student concerns over the lack of College-provided meals during fall and spring breaks and then spoke with local church leaders who expressed an interest in helping feed students. College administrators from the President’s Office of Government and Community Relations responded by organizing free breakfasts, lunches and dinners with local churches for this spring break as a pilot meal program. Please visit our website to see the full schedule.

 

The Transparency Working Group is currently working on expanding resources for students to learn about processes, policy-making and decisions within Oberlin. We also continue to be committed to facilitating fact-finding and other inquiries on the part of students. Please contact Senator and College junior Ben Libbey if you’re interested in contributing.

The Bylaw Revisions Working Group will be, unsurprisingly, working on revising the Senate bylaws. So far, we have brainstormed glaring issues to address as we come to them and gone through Section 1 of the bylaws, which focuses on the election process. We plan on bringing forward our ideas for revisions every week for general approval of the Senate. Please contact Senator and College sophomore Cory Ventresca if you’d like more information.

The Student Support Working Group is focusing on the new Student Support Initiative Fund established by the Board of Trustees Chair Clyde McGregor; the $500,000 commitment to the fund has been designated for “at-risk” students. The Student Support Working Group is organizing a forum after spring break to gather input and hear testimony primarily from students who fall under the umbrella cast by the administration of “at-risk” — low-income and Pell-elligible students, students of color, first-generation students, nonbinary and gender non-conforming students, disabled students and cis women.

Please see us during our plenary sessions on Sundays at 7 p.m. in Wilder 115.

 

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