Reviewing representation

Some USS senators realize their original goals may not be reality by next semester

Editor’s note:

In the first part of a three-day series, the Stater examines the Undergraduate Student Senators you elected last semester. As USS prepares to restructure student government at Kent State, here’s a look at how those elected have carried through with their campaign platform goals. The senators were asked about their platform goals, which they presented last spring while running for election.

Kali Price

Senator for academic affairs

Points from campaign platform:

-Making the plus/minus grading scale more universal

-Fixing problems with KAPS

Being a senator for the Undergraduate Student Senate is a full time job, as Kali Price found out.

Price, the senator for academic affairs, said she hasn’t done as much as she’d like because of her busy schedule.

Besides having a heavy course load, Price sits in on Faculty Senate meetings, works out the kinks with the new scheduling system, teaches First Year Colloquium, works with several committees and is involved with the Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority.

Add all of that to holding senator office hours, and she’s a little overwhelmed. But, she is still making notable stands during her first year working on student government issues.

Her original two platform goals of making the plus/minus grading system more universal and fixing problems with KAPS have been thrown out the window.

“With the plus/minus system, it’s already here,” Price said. “We can’t do anything about it. I had originally wanted it to be more at the discretion of the departments and not the professors, but it’s already moving toward that.”

In the past, professors could hand out plus or minus grading without an overall understanding from departments. Price said now most departments have already established rules professors must abide by.

“With KAPS, I wanted to fix the problems and go with what Preston (Mitchum, previous senator for academic affairs) was doing earlier,” she said. “I’m holding that off until next semester because of Banner.”

Banner, the new system students schedule with, has produced a lot of confusion in its first months, Price said.

“I worked a lot with it before it launched,” she said. “I want to make it so there aren’t so many problems.”

One of those problems, Price said as an example, was the difficulty with registering for classes with prerequisites.

“Before, there was no problem,” she said. “Now, it’ll catch you, and it’s difficult.”

A large project that fell into Price’s lap was a partnership with Pick-a-Prof.

To bring the application to Kent State was originally one of Executive Director Katie Hale’s platform goals. Once the year started, it was found that it fell more under Price’s position than Hale’s.

“I still want to do something huge with Pick-a-Prof,” she said. “I haven’t spent much time with it because of (my busy schedule), and it hasn’t worked out how I’ve wanted it to.”

Price said she really only sees three more months to get everything accomplished.

“We’re pretty much done by March,” she said. “There’s not a lot we can do after elections.

“I want to see this position more involved,” she said of her replacement for next year. “Meetings are important, and they should continue to keep up with programs, like Pick-a-Prof, and be concerned with issues like Banner and KAPS.”

Jonithon Lacross

Senator for university affairs

Points from campaign platform:

-Make the All University Hearing Board more available to students

-Work more closely with Judicial Advocates

-Provide First Year Colloquium students with descriptions of what USS offers

The senator for university affairs didn’t establish tricky goals to complete — his plate was already full enough.

Jonithon LaCross works with Judicial Affairs, so when thinking of platform goals for his Undergraduate Student Senate run last year, he stuck to what he knew: make the All University Hearing Board more available to students, work more closely with Judicial Advocates and provide First Year Colloquium students with descriptions of what USS offers.

Although he’s run into some problems, such as the FYC program shifting gears and a slow semester for Judicial Affairs, LaCross said he’s making headway.

The All University Hearing Board would be extremely successful, he said, if Judicial Affairs would support it.

“I’ve kind of been filibustered by Judicial Affairs,” LaCross said of the board. “They’re covering all the bases and making sure we’re doing our job, covering the confidentiality aspects. I don’t see an up-and-coming, full, working board until next semester.”

The role of the board, he said, is to aid students going in front of Judicial Affairs for some type of punishment.

“Say I’m going in front of Judicial Affairs,” he said. “Generally, I would go in front of a hearing officer — one person deciding your fate.

“The hearing board is a group of your peers,” he continued, “made of, I believe, four faculty members (and) two students and one has to be present. The student is the one who hands down the punishment, and the faculty members act as advisers in a sense.”

LaCross said the student has all the power in handing down the punishment, but it’s based on a general consensus from the board.

“The student adds an aspect that is more understanding than an adult,” he said. “In retrospect, what (adults) feel is just out of line.”

There really haven’t been any cases this semester, LaCross said, and only one or two should have gone in front of a board.

Because of Judicial Affairs’ slow start to support the hearing board, LaCross said he’s focused most of his attention on training student advocates.

Student advocates assist defendants in understanding the disciplinary process and what consequences may form.

LaCross said he’s working with 12 advocates right now. He’s trained them on how to explain the entire process, from when the student sits down to when they leave the hearing room. They also explain to the defendants how to dress and how to make a good impression.

“A lot of (the cases) deal with dismissal and suspension,” he said. “Some kids think that if you’re suspended, it’s like high school, but suspension to Judicial Affairs is, ‘we want you to take a semester off and grow up and come back when you’re ready.’ Dismissal is, ‘we don’t want you here at all.'”

For example, LaCross said there are certain punishments across the board, but possession of marijuana generally comes with probation while arson can be either suspension or dismissal.

While balancing his busy schedule, LaCross has still found time to be involved with things he’s interesting in.

“I personally sat on the dean search committee for (the College of) Arts and Science,” he said. “We needed a senator to sit on it, so I was interested. I spent some time, went up to Cleveland for a couple days for the interviews, helped with that process.”

LaCross said it was a really good experience, and he enjoyed participating in the decision making process.

The upcoming semester plans to be just as busy, he said.

“We’re trying to get the basics out of the way, working on the bylaws,” he said. “I definitely want the board up and running next semester and make sure that’s for sure.

“Next semester, everything needs to be set in motion and we kind of have to ride it.”

John Wetmore

Senator of governmental affairs

Points from campaign platform:

-Bring tax-free textbooks to campus

-Find a legalized music downloading system

-Bring a well-known political speaker to campus

For the senator of governmental affairs, most of his original plans are in motion.

John Wetmore set up some attainable goals during his Undergraduate Student Senate platform run last spring: bring tax-free textbooks to campus, find a legalized music downloading system and bring a well-known political speaker to campus.

Wetmore, an outspoken individual not afraid to express his opinion at USS meetings, began work as soon as he was elected.

With the goal of finding a potential way to replace the illegal music downloading on campus, a deal with Ruckus fell right into his lap.

“It was something that I started researching and doing on my own,” he said. “The university had the same idea that I did because it ended up happening. Everyone left satisfied in that situation. Hopefully a lot of kids are using it.”

Just last week, Wetmore mailed out his proposal for tax-free textbooks to those of interest, such as Eric Fingerhut, chancellor of higher education, and Ohio Sen. Tom Roberts.

“It’s like shipping my kids to college,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of nice feedback. Many have invested interest. I won’t be in senate when it happens, but that’s just the nature of democracy.”

Modeled after the University of Texas’ success with tax-free books, Wetmore has developed packets of information that has already been presented to other university senates. Now, he just has to wait for a decision.

While waiting on word of his possible success, Wetmore has been registering students to vote, something that comes standard with his position, he said.

Still, he plans on a big event for the spring semester to get more students to the voting polls.

“I’m probably going to invite some state representatives and senators, get the College Democrats and Republicans involved, and just do one big poll,” he said. “I’m going to try and advertise it enough in advance so students will know exactly where they need to go if they want to register (to vote).”

One goal Wetmore has yet to dive into was bringing a political speaker to campus.

“It was my big priority over the summer,” he said. “I started researching in May. Unfortunately, plans fell through, and it’s kind of disappointing.

“I put my eggs in one basket and it didn’t work out, but I’m not going to give up on it.”

Wetmore said he’s working with Michael Hammond, senator for research and development, polling students on what they want to see in the spring.

“It’s definitely not out of the question,” he said of getting a speaker to campus. “This is something I still want to accomplish by the time I’m done (with my term). I’m at the mercy of the speakers and scheduling, so I’ll do my best.”

Although Wetmore may be struggling to find a speaker by the end of next semester, he said he feels the term of one year itself is adequate.

“I think one of the problems you run into is you find yourself running for senate having these lofty aspirations for the upcoming year,” he said. “Then you finally get into the position and realize that sometimes change is very difficult and some of your goals are unrealistic or unattainable.

“A year is a short time to try and cram and get everything done,” he added. “Often times you’ll have a senator who had five amazing platform goals and it comes to the next year and nothing gets done. It turns out that there are so many roadblocks and things that can’t come together, but we try to work as hard as we can to get done what we can in that short term.”

Wetmore said he feels all the senators are working with what they have and are doing a great job.

“We’re just trying to get everything ready for the USG, and it’s kind of hard because we have all of our normal senator duties, and then we have the big responsibility of getting the USG ready,” he said. “Considering the circumstances of everyone having to write the bylaws and do all the stuff with the USG, they’ve done a good job wearing two different hats.”