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New direction for student senate

 

By: Joe Zimmermann

Whatcom’s Campus is a microcosm of democracy, and as such, it has a governing body of students through which the administration hears the concerns of the students through representatives in student government.

The Associated Students of Whatcom Community College is composed of the Executive Board, the student Senators, the Programming and Diversity Board, and the college community at large.

“The ASWCC is any enrolled student here at Whatcom,” Lauren Besthoff, president of the student body and chair of the Executive Board said. “They are the constituents of the student government as well as participating students on the senate.”

            In her role as president, Besthoff has the responsibilities of drafting a work plan for the quarter and keeping the Board of Trustees apprised of its status, connecting the administration with the office of Student Life and Development, as well as keeping track of the Services and Activities budget.

            The executive vice president, Ian Ferrer, is also the chair of the Senate. Ferrer calls meetings to order, delegates the time between the senators, and keeps the meeting on task all while remaining impartial.

In his role, Ferrer also keeps the Senate apprised on legislation affecting community colleges and overseeing the on-campus voting registration.

            The vice president of operations, Claudia Johan, keeps the system of student government running smoothly by distributing and preparing handouts such as the agendas, calendars, funding requests.

Following each senate session in Syre every other Monday, Johan compiles and distributes the minutes to the Executive Board.

            “The vice president of operations is a very important role,” said Ferrer, “they are the glue that holds everything together.”

            The vice president of operations has duties outside of the senate. These duties invole maintaining and taking inventory of all ASWCC materials and property.

Enoch Bergeron, vice president of clubs, chairs the interclub-council as which meets monthly to vote on funding and programming decisions.

Bergeron oversees the creation of new clubs and the administration of existing clubs and keeps the ASWCC’s club handbook up to date.

Currently, Whatcom has approximately 20 clubs covering a range of interests such as photography, LatinX Leadership, and criminal justice.

Sandra Ramirez, vice president of campus advocacy, acts as one of the main conduits for students to voice their concerns. As co-chair of the Student Health & Wellness committee and the Social Justice committee, it’s her role on the Executive Board to advocate for campus-wide diversity, promote student’s well being and notify the campus community of activities throughout the given quarter.

The Executive Board works in tandem with the Senators, attending senate meetings and working on specific projects.

“The senate is where the action happens,” said Ferrer.

            A Senator’s role is to represent their constituency, the student body, by voting on issues and contributing to discussions at Senate meetings. They also set up a table during Club Fairs, lead workshops during student orientations, and talking regularly with their constituency .

According to Ferrer, The current year’s Senate is very different than last year. Changes were made in terms of how they ran legislation and senate meetings, engaged with students, and attendance at senate meetings.

            “Last year’s senate was a closed door oligarchy,” said Ferrer. “They moved their senate meetings from the auditorium in Syre to a small conference room next to Student Life and Development. There were two or three students there, maybe, at the meetings. We are getting 20 to 30 now, and hoping to crack 50.”

            Heidi Farani, director of Student Life and Development and advisor to the student government, has a different perspective on last year’s senate.

            “The student government isn’t comparable from one year to another,” said Farani. “Their approach is just different. Every year the prior government has built a legacy for the next year’s government to improve upon and refine.”

            Last year’s government, as with previous governments, was focused on rewriting the bylaws to clear out all the outdated and non-essential laws and to clarify and strengthen the laws infrastructure for posterity.

The bylaws allowed the process of hiring and training new senators to start earlier in the year. According to Ferrer, it wasn’t until the end of fall quarter 2016-17 that senators were trained and participating in the government.

            One of the biggest changes in the bylaws was the incorporation of the Programming and Diversity Board into the government’s official bylaws. The PDB is in charge of all programming at Whatcom with the priority of creating engaging events for enrolled students and a social, supportive environment for new students.

            “The Programing and Diversity Board is responsible for all programing you see around campus,” Besthoff said.

Such events include the Health and Wellness fair, movie nights, and getting speakers to attend conferences on campus.

Before, the PDB was working with the student government but independent from the executive board and senate. By making the vice president of Social and Educational Programming the chair of the PDB giving them a voice in the Senate.

Currently, the role of vice president of Social and Educational Programming is vacant, and an interim replacement will selected from the current PDB for the remainder of the year.

The entire student government has taken on many projects in the past, all based on issues brought to them by their constituency, and are being refined and built upon.

One such project was the location of the smoke shacks, which was put in place after numerous complaints of students smoking on campus.

Even though students are now smoking in the shack outside the entryway, smoke is still being blown in with students entering Kelly Hall and this year’s government is working on a solution.

 According to Besthoff, a huge success from this past quarter is the bus pass system. For the first time at Whatcom, this past quarter students were able to use their ID cards to ride the Whatcom Transit busses as a result of concentrated efforts of the executive board and senate.

“Looking into the number of times students used the bus pass, we found that over 37,000 people rode the bus last quarter,” Besthoff said. “If each one-way trip is $1, that’s saving the student body over $37,000 dollars. That’s something I’m pushing to continue.”


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