Photo: Sarah Andrews
When the 25th session of Student Senate gathers next year, the student body should expect the group to focus part of its attention on issues reaching outside Drake’s campus.
Student Body President-elect Greg Larson wants to focus part of Senate’s work on state and local issues, as well as national issues. Larson spoke about getting Senate involved outside of Drake’s campus when he was campaigning, and he has started to get a head start on it this year. Senate recently passed a resolution in support of a high-speed rail system that would connect Omaha with Chicago, with a stop in Des Moines.
Larson has also been in contact with United States Sen. Tom Harkin’s office and plans on meeting regularly with his staff. Harkin chairs the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions in Washington, D.C., and Larson sees this as a great opportunity to get involved with issues that will affect Drake students, especially relating to education.
“I really think many students feel strongly about going beyond Drake and beyond campus issues and reaching out to the community by addressing issues that affect them,” he said.
Sen. Amanda Laurent, who will be returning for a second term next year, agrees with Larson’s initiative.
“I think it’s a wonderful idea to get Drake involved in outside issues. It brings more legitimacy to Drake and its student body,” she said.
Larson hopes to have senators bring issues they care about to the table for discussion.
“Regardless of what it is, we’re realizing that there are a lot of issues that lie outside of the four corners of our campus, and they’re important to address,” he said.
In addition to being involved in community issues, the president-elect hopes to create more resources for newly created campus organizations.
“I want to bring some type of workshop at the beginning of the semester that is offered to all organizations that gives them the utilities to be successful as an organization, especially reaching out to smaller organizations,” he said.
Vice President of Student Activities-elect Jessica Hamilton will lead Drake’s largest-funded organization, the Student Activities Board. She agrees that working with organizations will be key to a successful year.
“I think the Organizational Council is a committee that can really make a huge difference in the relationship between the student body and Senate,” Hamilton said.
Senate went through several structural changes last year, including the addition of a First-Year Senator. Senators do not expect any such changes for next year, but Larson said there might be some minor adjustments.
“Just like every change, there might be changes we need to review and adjust to make sure it makes sense,” he said.
Vice President of Student Life-elect Matthew Van Hoeck also hopes to improve on Senate’s outreach to the student body. He said he hopes to let academic senators choose where they have their required office hours and wants senators-at-large to meet outside of the Senate office to be more accessible to constituents. Other plans include having a public affairs officer who will work on communicating to students what Senate is doing through the “Bulldog Brief” publication, revitalizing the website and using social media more to inform students.
While there will not be large structural changes coming to Senate next year, students can be prepared to see the body address important issues on and off Drake’s campus.
“I’m really excited to relook at the way Senate is organized and ways it can be improved,” Laurent said. “I’m looking forward to expanding Senate’s influence around the community.”