Typically, ASUSF Senate would be in full swing by February, returning after intersession with nearly a full cabinet.
This semester, however, nearly a third of senate positions are unfilled. Since December 2021, “we have had 10 senators and two executive members resign,” ASUSF Senate executive board said in a statement to the Foghorn.
Positions like the student of color representative, the student hybrid experience (SHE) representative, the vice president of marketing and communications, and the sophomore and senior class representatives all remained open in January.
While the executive board noted that there are “a myriad of reasons behind senators resigning,” a large contributor to the low turnout in leadership positions is the COVID-19 pandemic. “A lot of students have been feeling burnt out since early last semester, which could be because of returning to campus and the many challenges that it brings for some,” the executive board said.
According to a 2020 study from the Journal of Medicine, published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, COVID-19 stressors have resulted in 89% of college students having difficulty concentrating and 86% avoiding regular social interaction. These mental health struggles “bring negative impacts on higher education.”
These notions seem to manifest themselves here on the Hilltop with the senate staffing shortage. The executive board said that since the COVID-19 pandemic began, “not just within Senate, but with any kind of student engagement on campus, we have seen a significant change when it comes to commitment.”
The lack of a full cabinet comes as a shock for many students on campus. “I did not know about the staffing shortage,” said Celeste Baird, a sophomore international studies major. “Oftentimes decisions that are made top-down for people, say by administrators for students, aren’t as effective,” Baird said. “Students know what their experience is and what policies would help them, so it concerns me there aren’t the full amount of representatives in the Senate to voice student concerns.”
ASUSF Senate executive board said they are aware of this issue and are working to remedy it. Candidate interviews are being conducted in the Internal Affairs Committee and General Senate meetings, which over the next two weeks will fill four of the vacant positions.
Successful candidates will move into an official onboarding process. After onboarding, senators typically begin “working on various initiatives and resolutions that affect their constituencies,” the executive board said. They anticipate the new cohort of senators will follow in the footsteps of those who came before and move quickly into policy making.
“Despite being a smaller group, we are committed to advocating and representing the needs of the student body,” the executive board said. “We are here for students, regardless if the representative position for a specific constituency is filled or not.”
Applications open on Feb. 22 for those who want to get involved with the ASUSF Senate next semester. The student body is encouraged to attend the Senate’s general meetings, open to all within the campus community. More information can be found by following @asusf_senate on Instagram.
The Foghorn will continue its coverage on Senate, and offer former Senate members further opportunity to respond, following new member onboarding in the weeks to come.
*At the time of publishing, former senate members had yet to respond to the Foghorn’s request for comment
Megan Robertson, a sophomore media studies and performing arts & social justice double major, is one of the Foghorn’s general assignment reporters. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.