Student Senate Report 3/8/2023

Illustration by: Maddie Bataille | Photo Editor

This week from the Student Senate: Senators discussed concerns regarding the school’s ability to communicate pertinent safety information and the Senate’s ongoing tensions with the Faculty Senate at this Wednesday’s Student Senate meeting.

Calls for a revision of the University’s emergency communication policies came following violent online threats on Monday and last week’s shuttle accident, where a University Blue Line shuttle struck and injured a student pedestrian. 

Provost Barbara E. Wolfe fielded Student Senators’ opinions and ideas about improved methods of emergency communications, recognizing the weight of online University threats.

“It’s scary when something happens, we have to acknowledge that,” Wolfe said.

When prodded with allegations of inaction on behalf of the administration regarding the school’s alleged negligence and coverup of the shuttle incident, Wolfe stuck to the University’s party lines and shifted the conversation toward the best format for communications.

Student Senators pushed back and argued that the lack of communication regarding such issues far supersedes the format that the University chooses to share it.  

“Wouldn’t it be great to let people know something happened when it occurred,” Senator Chadronet asked when discussing the school’s lack of communication after the bus incident. “Just to know that action is being taken would be really amazing. I know people think that it could cause panic to let everyone know something happened without having all the answers, but there was panic anyway.”

Chadronet’s sentiment was echoed by other members of the Senate body, with Senators arguing that the University’s lack of communication causes panic as students hear pertinent information through social media and word of mouth rather than official sources, leading to the spread of rumors and misinformation. 

“Across the board, all students felt dissatisfied because everyone was hearing information through their friends, through big group chats or through things sent around on social media,” Chair Grace Summerson said. “How it was described to me was more like hearing dangerous gossip – something that was really bad and was causing panic or fear-mongering rather than hearing some factual information from the University. 

Speaker of the Assembly Chris Bove reiterated his discontentment about the Student Senate’s quarrel with the Faculty Senate.

“We don’t have the power to tell departments at the University what to do, but Faculty Senate does,” Bove said. 

Speaker Bove’s complaints follow a slew of controversy between the two Senate bodies surrounding a bill that the Student Senate proposed to the Faculty Senate in February that would require professors to allow a minimum of five unexcused absences for classes that meet three times a week. Following intense debate last month between Faculty Senate President, Michael Rice, and the Student Senate about the bill, the Student Senate was promised an audience at the Faculty Senate’s meeting this month but was not given the opportunity to speak at the Feb. 23 meeting. 

“They have so much institutional power but only meet once a month,” Bove said. 

Assistant Provost Anne Veeger agreed that the time limit that Faculty Senate is beholden to can stonewall important issues, and expressed her interest in changing the Faculty Senate’s bylaws to allow for more time in each meeting.

The Student Senate will next meet Wednesday, March 22.