Club leaders surprised by new student senate requirements

Photograph courtesy of Grizzly Staff

Courtney DuChene

Athletic teams, Greek organizations, and club members came together this past Wednesday for the first Ursinus College Student Government (UCSG) senate meeting. The email advertising the meeting, which was sent to all students this year, outlined new rules aimed to increase the participation of new clubs and ease the burden on existing clubs. One such rule now requires that each club have two senators who can alternate meeting attendance, rather than one senator who attends every meeting.

Some clubs found this year’s two-senator requirement to be a hassle.

Robin Gow, Feminists in Action (FIA) Social Chair, said, “[We’ve] gone through a lot of re-organization lately. This means that a lot of work falls on a few people to keep the club going . . . I think the rule directly harms  group[s] . . . [that are] already stretched thin.”

Senior Rachael Carter of the International Relations Club echoed Gow’s sentiments. “A lot of times there just aren’t enough officers for the clubs to go to all of the meetings at that time. It would be helpful to have options.”

Chris Tan, the vice president of the UCSG and the senate leader, explained that the two-senator requirement was meant to ease the burden on smaller clubs. “The reason why we want two senators is because we want to distribute [the work]. We talked about making it easy. We don’t want to put anything too onerous or burdensome on one senator… Everyone’s very busy with their own schedules, with their extracurriculars, and so the main rationale behind having two is so that you can flip flop . . . We wanted to make it easier.”

The senator requirements are based on the philosophy that every element of student life should have a say in UCSG proceedings. Tan said, “It’s community. We can’t have a vibrant and strong community at Ursinus if everyone is so separated. So we want to bring this into a big forum where people can start engaging with each other and really coming together, because, really, student senate brings together these leaders from each slice of life at Ursinus.”

For Tan and other UCSG officers, the student senate meetings provide valuable feedback and he sees club participation as integral to that process.

“[The UCSG is] only as knowledgeable as what we know and sometimes these clubs that are on the ground have this perspective that us in student government don’t have,” Tan said.

Gow and other small club leaders, however, have not found the process to be worth the difficulty of recruiting senators.

Gow said, “I have never heard anyone mention having senators to be helpful. I do think senate is great if you want to talk about what’s going on for campus, but clubs have a lot to do without having to go.”

Other organizations have found the two-senator requirement to be difficult to meet because of the Wednesday night meeting time.  Carter thinks more options could help ease this concern: “Two different options, one that’s on a Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule and one that’s a Tuesday/Thursday schedule just to like, give people more options. It’s not like [people] don’t want to go, but it’s just that it’s not possible.”

Tan said the UCSG plans to work with these groups to help accommodate their needs. “We hope we can start working with them to find a more accommodating way to get their voices out there.”

Tan also eased concerns about the penalty towards clubs’ AFAC funding if they miss a senate meeting. “We try not use negative punishment like that… That’s usually our last measure. We are really trying to urge these clubs to come, and the reason why is that we need their voices… [AFAC cuts] are like the nuclear option, but we do that because they are using funds from AFAC and we think it’s appropriate that if they’re using money given to them, they have a say in how [the student government] is being run.”

Despite the initial misgivings students have expressed, Tan is hopeful that this year’s senate will be a place for groups to come together and support smaller clubs. “The reason why we want to get these small people involved is because… it’s the little guys. We want to be supportive of these small but dedicated clubs that love what they’re doing and maybe they don’t have that medium to get that publicity out. The senate’s there not only to give a voice to the students… but it’s also to help give representation and publicity to other clubs. Hopefully as we move on we’ll see a lot of cross-organization collaboration.”

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