What is the Student Senate and what do they do?

The Student Senate including the president, Sophia Barnes, in the front with a green backpack and grey sneakers. (Photo provided by Sophia Barnes)

By Elliot Langkam

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of stories on York College and some of the key issues it faces moving forward.

The York College Student Senate has a variety of different uses for the student body. These include things like dealing with the setup and organization of different clubs and organizations on campus. Members also are responsible for starting and participating in a variety of projects that are there to help the student body. They are meant to be a voice for the students to take direct action on different issues within the college.

Sophia Barnes, the president of the Senate, says that at York College the “Student Senate’s main purpose is to be the voice of the student and to be the connection between the student body and a wide variety of offices and administrators across campus. We advocate for the students and try to work with them toward solutions.”

It’s a multi-faceted role that remains off the radar of many students.

The Senate knows that up to this point it has had a little bit of a challenge with being able to actually communicate with students effectively because of when the group has its meetings. It plans to move the times of the meetings in order to make them more convenient for the rest of the student body to be able to participate. In the spring, meetings now will take place every Monday at 5 p.m. in the William Walker Room in the bottom floor of the student union.

Members of the Senate are also working on having better organization since COVID had messed with that quite a bit, she said.

Student Senate is very important as a mechanism for students to have their voices heard by many people within the YCP community.

Barnes said that [for the student body] “it is important for them to know that we are a resource on campus for them. From clubs and organizations to communicating directly with the President’s Office, we have the ability to make change on campus, or at least begin steps toward making that change. Students can sometimes feel helpless or like they don’t have an advocate, but that is why we exist, to speak up for the students on issues that they see and would like to see resolved.”

She has made it very clear that the biggest job of Student Senate is to be an advocate for all students on campus.

There are also many different opportunities for students when being involved with the Senate. Barnes said that “Student Senate holds great leadership opportunities as well as networking opportunities. Being a student senator includes the opportunity to sit on a variety of committees of the faculty-run Academic Senate as well as working directly with administrators. It is also a great experience to see through a project from the idea phase to actually seeing it implemented on campus.”

Barnes talked about her own personal experiences from being in the Senate. “I was able to see this with the program Aunt Flow on campus. I had a conversation with another student from the University of South Dakota that mentioned it and I was able to see it through every stage to implementation.” It’s one example she shared that shows the kinds of projects the Student Senate is a part of.

There are other projects that the Student Senate has organized/been a part of as well including the tobacco-free policy on campus.

Barnes said she is hoping that students will start to see the capabilities of the student Senate and start to feel more comfortable with coming to it with any concerns they may have.

Elliot Langkam is a Professional Writing major with a Music Performance minor. They are a senior and are expected to graduate by the Spring 2022 semester.

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