Takeaways from Year One of the Student Senate Inclusion Committee

The cupola at Penn Hall (Photo Mary Frasier/The Gettysburgian)

The cupola at Penn Hall (Photo Mary Frasier/The Gettysburgian)

By Gauri Mangala, Managing Editor

Daniel Jones ‘22 is well into the second semester of his tenure as the first Inclusion Committee Chair of the Student Senate at Gettysburg College. During his time in the position, Jones has brought forth many amendments to the constitution with the goal of creating a governing body that operates closer to its tag line: ‘Senate Works for You.’

It wasn’t until peers involved in student government asked Jones to run for the new position that he decided to look into becoming more involved.  “It was kind of a philosophical decision, like choosing to be in the ‘Belly of the Beast.’”

As an executive board member who has never held a voting position in the Senate before. Jones is in a unique position. “I didn’t like the Senate,” he said. “Even when I applied and ran in the fall I was pretty open about that.” 

Jones speaks to a perception of the Student Senate that many marginalized groups have had over the years, in that it has often been seen as a group made to benefit only certain clubs and students. For example, students have taken issue with the way the Budget Management Committee has handled budget requests with clubs, and specifically cultural clubs, and have also been vocal about the prominence of microaggressive tendencies displayed by senators and executive board members. This has created a strong divide, making it hard to bring all students to the table.

“There is a lot of power in the Student Senate.” – Daniel Jones ’22

The Inclusion Committee has brought forward and passed several amendments to bring about slow and steady change to the way the student governing body operates. This semester alone, a multitude of topics have been addressed through amendments. One mandates senator attendance at club events to encourage greater community understanding, while another created a Senate-funded base budget for election campaigns to make student government opportunities accessible for all members of the student body. 

When students find out how much money the Student Senate has and its power to make changes, however, Jones has found that students are more inclined to get involved.

But after getting people interested, Jones noted that the next crucial step is making students feel safe enough to discuss more sensitive topics. To highlight a commitment to this goal, the Inclusion Committee has all members and visitors sign a non-disclosure agreement to ensure the safety of all people. If Jones is bringing an issue to the Senate floor, for example, he is required to keep all names private when speaking for the committee. 

One way Jones plans on measuring the success of the new committee will be to see if there is a significant uptick in candidate and voter turnout for this round of student elections. He spoke specifically to the outcome of last year’s presidential election. 

“Getting more people to run is important, but getting more people to vote is, in ways, more important.” – Daniel Jones ’22

Kurtis Grey ‘21 was elected as the president of the Student Senate with 201 votes, while vice president Katie Troy ‘21 secured 325 votes. Voter turnout for both elections represented 32 percent of the student body—Grey assumed his role with votes from just over 10 percent of the eligible voting body.

“I think the voter turnout is just horrible,” he said. “Getting more people to run is important, but getting more people to vote is, in ways, more important, because at least then we can pretend that the leaders are representative of a majority of the student body.”

After almost a full academic year as a member of the Student Senate, Jones expressed a commitment to ensuring that the student governing body continues to work toward the implementation of more change on campus. 

“There’s a lot of power in the Student Senate,” he said. 

 

This article originally appeared on pages 18 and 19 of the April 13, 2021 edition of The Gettysburgian’s magazine.

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Author: Gauri Mangala

Gauri Mangala '21 currently serves as the managing editor for the Gettysburgian. Gauri is originally from Langhorne, Pennsylvania. Aside from her work with the Gettysburgian, Gauri is the treasurer for the Owl and Nightingale Players. She is a double major in Theatre Arts and Anthropology.

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