By Stephen DiFiore
At the beginning of today’s PSGA Senate meeting, the Senate consisted of two students, Charlie Caspari and Donyae McCray, both of whom were elected last semester. The only item of new business was to approve the election results, which added 11 senators to the Student Senate. The resolution to approve the results passed unanimously 2-0.
“We will actually have more than two senators,” said Senate Chair Teresa Wheeler, who is not a voting member of the Senate except to break a tie.
By the end of the meeting, the Senate had 13 senators instead of two, but half of the seats remain empty. The 11 new senators were elected at the beginning of the semester, all in uncontested elections. There was almost going to be 15 senators, but two dropped out before the first meeting.
Vacancies in the Senate have been an issue for a few years now, especially when a large number of vacancies results in important committees not meeting due to a lack of senators. The Green Fee Council, a major committee in the PSGA, had so many student vacancies that for much of last year, faculty members outnumbered student members, causing the PSGA to adopt a bylaw change that reduced faculty members.
Finance Coordinator Jack Sullivan, formerly a Senator for the School of the Arts, reminded the Senate of the need to have senators on the PSGA’s crucial Finance Committee.
“There’s an urgency factor here,” Sullivan said. “Finance needs to meet soon.”
If Finance is unable to meet, funding requests from clubs and services will not be heard, which could potentially slow down club activity.
Public Affairs Coordinator Addison Jenkins and Coordinator of Clubs and Organizations Grace Parker each also made heard their needs for senators on their committees.
The PSGA has always prioritized the most important committees, each of which requires senators to meet. However, they will be stretched thin with half of their seats vacant.
And filling those vacancies will be a challenge too. Each of the 11 senators were elected with no competition. Only 60 students voted, and over 20 students casted blank ballots. Last semester, executive elections recorded 215 votes. This is comparatively better but still the lowest turnout in years for executive elections, which usually have around 500 votes. Students plainly are apathetic toward the PSGA.
“It’s been driving me crazy for years,” Wheeler said of the vacancy issue. “Positions hold little legitimacy considering how much power they hold.” The PSGA’s power comes from their control of a budget of over $800,000 paid for by students.
The PSGA has passed reforms to encourage students to run for PSGA office, such as making the application process easier, posting the applications online, and tabling to advertise these positions.
But with new faces in the Senate, there are some new ideas to increase the visibility of the PSGA on campus.
“I’m working on starting a newsletter to create more transparency,” said Liberal Arts and Sciences Senator Josh Andrews.
The newsletter would be aimed at getting more attention to the PSGA, and make more students want to compete for the seats which hold so much influence on campus. Andrews has been working with Andrew Salomon, the coordinator of the Journalism Board of Study, as well as Vice President of Student Affairs and Officer-in-Charge Dennis Craig.
“If everyone follows through with the needed work to be accomplished, yes, I think our efforts will go a long way,” Craig said.
Students who are interested in filling these vacancies can be considered for an appointment with the approval of current senators by emailing Teresa Wheeler.