After much anticipation across campus, results for Senate’s Special Elections are finally in. The proposal to restructure the Senate from 34 to 16 members has passed with a 95 percent approval rate, while the increase of the Student Activity Fee failed to pass with only a 60 percent approval rating when 67 percent approval was needed to pass.
The Senate restructure will cut the number of representatives from 28 to 11, meaning there will only be one representative instead of two for: the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Management, the School of Nursing and Health Professions, the Freshman Class, the Sophomore Class, the Junior Class, the Senior Class, Students of Color, LGBTQ Students, International Students and Transfer Students.
Representative positions for students with disabilities, non-traditional age students, on-campus students, and off-campus students positions will be cut entirely.
When asked why certain positions were being cut, Senate Executive President, junior Laureano Figueroa, explained was that there was too much of an overlap in responsibilities with senators serving the same constituencies. He used on- and off-campus representatives as an example. “We noticed that on- and off-campus reps and class reps such as freshman reps and sophomore reps usually do the same things. So right now we have six people doing the same thing and it’s really difficult to get everyone on board with stuff, so it just doesn’t seem like it’s being streamlined well enough,” said Figueroa.
Sophomore and first-time Students of Color representative Nabiha Jiwani agrees with Figueroa, and goes a step further to suggest that that the responsibilities are usually taken on by only one of the partnering senators. “One person does more of the work than the other, which is why they’re cutting positions,” said Jiwani.
The shakeup also affects the executive board, which will see its size decrease from six positions to five, since the Vice President of Mission and Vice President of Sustainability positions will merge as one under the new title Vice President of Advocacy. Students will choose whether Shaya Kara (current VP of Mission) or Nick Fragoso (VP of Sustainability) will remain on the Senate executive board, should both choose to run for the new position during spring elections later this semester.
Per the Senate Constitution, if Senate calls for a special election there must be a 20 percent voter turnout to pass anything. Senate did not want to settle, but instead ambitiously aimed for 25 percent voter turnout. After month-long planning, marketing, and advocating for votes, Senate President Laureano Figueroa feels relieved and elated, regardless of the split results, because he met his goal of reaching the 1600 voter turnout, exceeding it by 52 votes. “Even if it’s disapproving I would rather have 30 percent [of the student body] say no than 10 percent say yes. I would feel comfortable with any result as long as we got students to participate and give feedback,” said Figueroa.
Although Senate did reach its voting goal, there is still a sense of apathy on campus towards Senate and elections in general. Sophomore advertising major, Sarinya Harinsuta, believes that Senate doesn’t have enough of a presence on campus. “No one pays attention to senate elections; they needed to have someone at the undercaf just reminding people to vote,” said Harinsuta.
Matthew Yim, junior English major, echoed what Harinsuta had to say about elections. “I knew it was going on because someone in my class was in it or something, so she was saying everyone should vote because there was a chance we could win some stuff. It grabbed my attention for like two seconds, but after that not really,” said Yim.
Questions still remain for Senate, however. Figueroa first proposed his referendum of a restructuring of Senate and the raising of the activity fee during The Outdoor Senate Retreat last December. Figueroa and Jiwani both admitted that senators were initially skeptical, but after talking it through, Figueroa explained the possibility of paid positions across both executive board members and senate representatives. This gave current senators more incentive to side with restructuring even though they would be taking on more of the workload and were not being guaranteed salaries.
As executive members of a funded account, only executive senators are currently paid. Figueroa proposed that senators who hold representative positions could use salary as motivation for more cohesive collaboration and fostering of ideas amongst the smaller group. “A lot of people right now are just goofing off, coming to meetings just because they have to. There’s no passion. But if you’re getting paid and actually start thinking of it as a job, then people will realize the upside, which carries its responsibilities, one being that if you don’t do your job you’ll get fired,” said Jiwani.
But with the activity fee proposal not passing and the restructuring having passed , Senate will struggle to provide the opportunity of paid positions to the representative senators who remain on Senate come next Fall.
Figueroa was initially nervous about proposing this idea to his peers. He said, “That’s what I was most nervous about. Proposing this to senate. I was worried some may interpret the restructuring as me saying, ‘Your position isn’t needed on Senate.’”
One of Figueroa’s final tasks will be to oversee the spring elections; he has no intentions to run for President again once classes resume in the Fall. He stressed that he wants to extend the opportunity of holding office to someone else. “There are a lot of other people who are interested in the position and who I think will bring in a new perspective to Senate, and will do just as good a job, if not better,” said Figueroa.
Before his term ends, he will continue trying to get a third public safety shuttle on campus. Figueroa and Junior Class Representative Francesca Bitton are currently collaborating on a ballot item for spring elections since a purchase of more than $25,000 needs to be approved by the student body. Figueroa said this is directly in response to students’ feedback and demands for a new shuttle, and specifically the expansion of the radius which shuttles can travel since it limits how many off-campus students can use the service.