Connor Oetzmann, Student Body President for the 36th session of the Drake Student Senate, is a senate veteran. Having served in many different positions over his college career, he’s not had a free Thursday night in four years.
In an interview with The Times-Delphic in the last stretch of his senior year, Oetzmann pointed to past Student Senate leaders as his inspiration.
“I’ve taken things from every student body president that I’ve witnessed, and I think having had four years of senate experience as a whole showed me the areas that we were doing really well in and the areas that needed some improvement,” Oetzmann said.
Oetzmann said that the real strength of the 36th Senate session has been in its collaboration with other student organizations.
“We just weren’t doing a lot of events and collaborations and partnering with a lot of other organizations, so that was something that I sought out to do this year,” Oetzmann said.
For quite some time, senate has appeared to be separate from other organizations on campus. Oetzmann said he has sought to bridge that gap during his term.
“I think you’re going to always have a greater impact when you are collaborating and bringing communities together to support an initiative or support a program,” Oetzmann said.
Senate got the ball rolling on quite a few initiatives last term, including supporting the LGBTQ+ community and MCAT and LSAT prep support.
“We sort of started last year with working on these really big initiatives that we knew weren’t potentially going to be accomplished in one year, but are consistently being worked on,” Oetzmann said.
Of those initiatives, College of Arts and Sciences Senator Tiffany Lopez said in an interview that she wished senate could have accomplished more.
“Every time we took one step forward, it felt like three steps back – an example being the fight for making campus more transgender friendly,” Lopez said. “We were thinking of possibly having gender-neutral bathrooms. But the minute we pushed for it, facilities found out that there’s gonna be construction in the next few years and they don’t want to invest in making bathrooms gender-neutral when they’re about to change the whole layout.”
Senate has prided itself on some completed initiatives. They updated the senate election code to allow for more flexibility and further campaigning time for candidates during election season. Senate also provided funding for students to participate in conferences, such as Briahna Amundson and Abbie Whittemore’s medical trip to Honduras and sporting events like the Drake Badminton Club’s participation in two tournaments at Iowa State University and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
An issue that Oetzmann wished Senate could have provided more progress on was the proposed coursework assignments initiative, which would have prohibited Drake instructors from assigning work to students during or immediately after fall and spring breaks.
“I think we definitely wanted to have some more traction and more insight about what the university thought and sort of next steps that way,” Oetzmann said.
Oetzmann noted that incoming Student Body President Ruwayda Egal plans to continue the coursework assignments initiative into the next year.
Senate also didn’t come to a conclusion regarding an increase in the Student Activities Fee.
Lopez cited that the strife between student publications and senate was a factor in her decision to not seek another term.
“I think the way the activities fee was handled was rushed,” Lopez said. “There was a lack of communication. A lot of people didn’t know certain information that others did, and it just overall needed to be reviewed again. And that’s the goal for next year, for it to be reviewed and to go through this time.”
Oetzmann said there are plans to address the controversy in the next year’s session.
“I know that one of the [continuing initiatives] will definitely be the Board of Student Communications and even broader the Student Activities Fee and hopefully figuring out what the next steps will be for that,” Oetzmann said.