Neither nameplates nor a formal agenda were present at Student Senate last Thursday evening. It was set to be “a different kind of meeting,” according to Student Body President Greg Larson.
“Basically this is a very informal meeting,” Larson said. “For the majority of the meeting we’re going to be in just open discussion, dialogue, that kind of thing.”
Senate announced in its first session of the year that it would be implementing a new meeting style once per month. Thursday marked its first trial run of the new “strategic meeting” format.
Instead of completing regularly scheduled office hours last week, the senators went out on campus in pairs and asked students what issues they encountered. The Senators then brought students’ praise and criticism to the discussion table.
“It was a really positive experience,” Vice President of Student Activities Jessica Hamilton said.
Hamilton went out with Vice President of Student Life Matt Van Hoeck. The pair listened to concerns and answered questions, especially regarding the new printing system and the blueSky emailing system.
Sen. Seejo Valacheril also reported that students seemed to be receptive of senators reaching out in a more direct way.
“Wow, senators are actually doing something, doing what they always said they’d do,” one student told Valacheril.
One by one, senators shared students’ issues with the table and the items were added to a list.
“We got a lot of issues,” Larson said. “Let’s keep it moving. Let’s keep the focus on the new things, things that maybe we haven’t talked about before.”
Issues included helping upperclassmen feel more included in campus, promoting alcohol-alternative weekend options, changing Olmsted’s status as a “walk-through building” into a “student union” and talking about the lack of renovations in upperclassmen residence halls.
“The point of this is to come to a resolution on what we can do, not simply discuss things,” Larson said. “And, again, leave here with some actionable things.”
Senators then reviewed the list, brainstorming ideas to potentially solve some and delegating other items to committees, faculty members or a senator for further research.
“I just thought this was really cool,” Senator David Karaz said of the new meeting format. “We’re going to leave tonight with things we’ve never discussed.”
Representatives from the Drake Residence Hall Association and the National Residence Hall Honorary also presented to Senate Thursday on their upcoming service project.
The goal of the 3-Mile Project is to raise 50,000 items of canned food, approximately equivalent to three miles. All food would be donated to the World Food Prize.
“We’re coming to you guys not only for support but for ideas,” said Eric Ferring, RHA President.
Ferring along with NRHH President Laura Vollmer and RHA Publicity Chair Weston Pickhinke have already contacted various churches, high schools and local philanthropic organizations for support.
Ferring, Vollmer and Pickhinke hope to gain collaboration for the project from not only RHA and Senate, but Greek Life and SAB as well. The project will be incorporated with “Celebrate Drake.”
“I think that you can expect the full cooperation from Student Senate for you endeavor,” President Larson said.