The University of Rhode Island’s Student Senate elected three new officers to its executive board this fall following a wave of resignations before this semester started.
Tristram Howard was named the new vice president, while Mark Gall was named campus affairs chair and Sara Straube was named External Chair. President Adriana Wilding is optimistic about the new leaders.
“I think we still have a really great dynamic as an executive board, and we really bounce off of each other when it comes to ideas,” Wilding said.
According to Wilding, most of the former officers resigned due to personal reasons or a need to focus on their academics. President Wilding noted that the new officers are much different from students on the former executive board.
“The major difference between the two is we are much more efficient now,” Wilding said. “We get to the point and get everything done as fast as we can, but also be extremely productive, compared to the previous board which was more relaxed.”
Vice President Howard served as the interim vice president before being elected on Sept. 12. Prior to his vice presidential election, Howard held at-large and on-campus representative seats, as well as served as the speaker of the Rules and Ethics and Bylaws Committees. Howard hopes to bring more order to the Senate and to enforce its rules as necessary.
“The vice president’s job is making sure the Senate is running smoothly and that we are staying in line with our constitution and bylaws,” Howard said. “That has been not actually happening over the past couple of terms. That overall drags down the Senate’s ability to function.”
Howard is also interested in making changes in the way the Senate functions.
“I took a significant chunk of my summer to essentially completely rewrite the Student Senate constitution and rules,” Howard said. “At some point, I’ll see if I actually want to get that passed. We’ve gotten to a point where it is necessary to have revisions.”
When asked what sort of legacy he would like to leave on the Senate, Howard said he hopes to leave an organization that can reliably pursue its mission of representation of the student body. He also said that the Senate is still learning how to function properly and that he hopes to help fix that before he graduates.
President Wilding described Howard as being very attentive to the role and said that he puts in a lot of effort in making the Senate function.
Campus Affairs Chair Gall also served as the vice campus affairs chair before being elected. Gall had been part of the Campus Affairs Committee since he first joined the Senate. The Campus Affairs Committee focuses on campus issues of a non-academic nature such as student rights and dining.
“I would say Mark is very assertive and knows how to get what he wants,” Wilding said. “Being on campus committee, he has already made major strides in multiple issues the committee was facing.”
One thing Gall wants to do during his tenure is collaborate with administrators and faculty, but stand up to them if necessary.
“When we deal with reasonable administrators and such, we will work with them,” Gall said. “But some administrators are not reasonable. Before, this committee wouldn’t be oppositional. If there’s an administrator not doing their job properly, we will be oppositional and fight against them.”
External Chair Straube said the External Committee’s goal is to be engaged with the community outside of the University.
“External is really unique because it’s the only committee focused solely on off-campus affairs,” Straube said. “We mostly focus on communication with the towns. It doesn’t have to be Narragansett, but since a lot of off-campus students live in Narragansett, we work there a lot.”
Some of Straube’s plans as external chair include hosting a voting registration drive, holding a public forum on campus with a Narragansett town council member and the Narragansett police chief and working with the Jonnycake Center charity.
Straube is excited to be a woman in a leadership position, as she said that there has not been a female external chair in the past several semesters. She also believes that being on the student senate for only a few months before her election as external chair benefits her.
“I think that since I’m kind of a new senator I haven’t seen more of senate’s previous chairs, so I’m going in with more fresh ideas and carving my own path,” Straube said.
Straube hopes that her time as executive chair will inspire future leaders in the Senate.
“I hope that future senators see that with enough passion and dedication, you can do anything and hold any position you want to. I don’t think there’s one right person for one job, as long as you work at it and you’re serious about it, you can do the job.”