Students say they don’t know their USG senators

Melissa Dilley

Bey admits some representatives could have done a better job

Students from each college were asked if they knew the senator who represented them in Undergraduate Student Government – no one did.

Of the 50 students who didn’t know their senator, 21 weren’t even aware that USG existed.

USG employs nine senators whose main objectives are to be liaisons between the colleges they represent and the administration.

However, if the students don’t know who represents them, how can senators effectively do their jobs?

Executive Director Jonathan Bey said senators have been struggling this year to be noticed in their colleges, but that there are some who could’ve done a better job to get to know the students.

“A lot of senators were involved with groups within their college so students who are also involved would have gotten a better chance to know them.”

However, even students who are involved in the campus community are still only vaguely aware of what their government has achieved.

Sam Chambers, a sophomore political science major, is a member of College Democrats and a senator for Kent Interhall Council. Chambers said although he is involved on campus he has no idea who the senator for the College of the Arts and Sciences is, and he is disappointed with her term in office thus far.

“I have attended USG meetings and I feel like they are mostly preoccupied with their own segment,” Chambers said. “Like most of them are Greek or they focus only on their major instead of branching out.”

Bey said he recognized Heather Seedhouse, the senator for Chambers’ college, was one senator, among others, who might not have gone the extra distance as a USG member.

“Heather was involved on committees, including one for LER review, but she probably could’ve branched out as far as stepping out of her major and learning about others in her college,” he said.

Bey also noted that Ryan Bernstein, the senator for the College of Business Administration, could have stepped further out of the box.

While Bey admitted that there are some senators who failed to reach out to the students they represent, he said understanding the needs of students in diverse colleges such as the College of Arts and Sciences can be difficult.

“Students need to realize that there are some colleges that have very diverse majors like the college of Arts and Sciences,” Bey said. “But senators also need to realize that they represent them all, for example, not just biology, but political science as well.”

Another complaint many students had was that their senator was not accessible. Some students even suggested that senators have office hours – they already do.

A listing of the senators and directors office hours can be found in the Student Organizations office on the first floor of the Student Center.

However, if a student was to walk into the offices looking for a representative, they might find the lights out with no one in sight.

Thursday afternoon, the only person to be found in the office was Jared Smith, the senator for off-campus and commuter students, and someone sleeping in a cubicle reserved for senators.

Bey said he tries to check to make sure the senators are available during their office hours, but with more than 50 combined office hours weekly, it would be almost impossible to keep an eye on everyone.

Aside from being the voice of a particular college and having office hours, senators are required by USG by-laws to communicate with the college dean monthly and report back to the executive director.

Senators are also responsible for meeting with department chairs at least once per semester, attending faculty senate meetings when their college is being discussed and planning a ‘meet the deans’ week each semester.

Bey said he thinks all the students adhered to the basic stipulations of the by-laws, but a few of them went above and beyond.

Bey said Josh Lea, the senator for the College of Nursing, created an induction ceremony to welcome first year students into the program.

Bey also mentioned Sam Marcum, the senator for the College of Architecture and Environmental Design, who brought groups within his college together, and Andrew Fontanarosa, the senator for off-campus and commuter students, who dealt with the city of Kent to resolve issues regarding snow removal policies.

International students senator Annah Trunick also made an impact with Conversation Partners, a group that pairs international and domestic students, Bey said.

“I wasn’t disappointed with anyone,” Bey said. “While there are some who may not have done as much as they could have, there were others who went beyond and above to represent their college.”

Bey said he realized that senator visibility is an issue, and if USG could have figured out how to be more involved with the students, they would have done it.

Chambers suggested sending out a weekly e-mail, taking after President Lester Lefton’s ‘In a Flash’ messages. Also, he thought the best way for senators to make an impression is to attend organizations they normally wouldn’t.

“I would like for them to have a table in the Student Center every week maybe, just so we can go talk to them and introduce themselves to campus organizations,” Chambers said. “If USG senators tried just as much to get noticed during the school year as they do during elections, students might actually know and care what they do and who they are.”

Contact student politics reporter Melissa Dilley at [email protected].