Senate President reflects on his year leading the student body

connor-walters

At my first meeting as President of Student Senate, half of the attendees showed up to the wrong location and my usage of Parliamentary Procedure can best be described as “fumbling.”

Not the best way to start my year as President, much less my first year on Student Senate.

Yet despite the early mistakes and stumbles, I believe that my perspective as a Senate “outsider” greatly aided what we were able to accomplish this year. I think that I was able to see more of what Senate could do than just what it had done in the past.

It is a vision that this year’s Senate has worked toward diligently and with much success.

I am extremely fortunate to have worked alongside fellow seniors Dan Hartman, Caleb Muller and Vincent Hendershot on our executive board and had the support and guidance of Dr. Robert Pastoor and Dr. Tomeka Robinson. Additionally, our 16 senators and Parliamentarian were excellent in their contributions of time, talent and thought to Senate this year.

The executive board prepared a “state of the campus” report last spring that sought to address a myriad of campus issues, including low morale and school spirit, weak communication between students and administrators, and various other on-campus problems. President Joe Bruno applauded this document as a first step toward achieving the change we desired in our year in office.

I attacked the school spirit issue at Matriculation with a speech that had all of Ban Johnson on its feet chanting “We Are! MC!” I suppose that it had some impact, because the next day someone had chalked “We Are MC” on the Christy Mall and even on the side of some campus buildings.

Furthermore, I took up the role of the Pioneer, a mascot that I created with the help of Renee Bell in the costume department, and that appeared at several campus events. Dan Hartman spoke at the dedication of Harrison Hall and I gave a student welcome at Dr. Bruno’s inauguration during Homecoming.

Tackling student-administration communication issues took a little creative thinking on my part, but has yielded a sustainable, improving answer. Instead of allowing students to wait until the once-a-semester Student Speak Out to bring up their problems, we operated monthly Senate Outreach tables where students could come to us with their concerns. We then took their issues to the appropriate administrators and then gave the feedback to students.

We also engaged in focus groups that sought solutions deemed necessary by the Student Satisfaction Inventory survey, spoke up in Trustee and campus committee meetings, and produced a semester report detailing our actions and accomplishments. Administrators and faculty have appreciated these communication pursuits and been very receptive to anything we have brought to them.

Some of our miscellaneous other on-campus achievements include securing a safer walking surface for the DBRC-McCoy bridge, recognition of faculty and staff every month, the selection of the new Provost, surveying the need for the yearbook, and co-sponsoring the Doo Dah Day concert with CUB in April.

Senate also sponsored a number of events in order to have more of an active presence on campus. Aside from the concert, we sponsored the annual Welcome Back Cookout, a 9/11 flag lowering ceremony, a Veteran’s Day wreath-laying and the MC Rocks the Vote campaign.

Behind the scenes, we spent some serious time improving our own internal operations.

Last summer when I was approached about distributing Senate funds to campus organizations, I realized that Student Senate did not set its own budget. For this fall, procedures are in place for next year’s Senate to make that happen.

Elections have greatly changed over the years, particularly in how voting occurs and campaigning takes place. This year’s Senate has established robust campaigning regulations as well as elections procedures that clean up a number of gray areas. Perhaps most notably, we elevated the Parliamentarian position to the Executive Board, so that this person can manage elections beginning this fall.

Additionally, our Constitution and Bylaws were both out of date and disorganized. As we prepare to hand off the reigns to the next Senate, we are happy that they will have cleaner, clearer procedures and standards to follow. 

Lastly, this year’s executive board is preparing thorough documents and materials that we believe will improve our transitions and hopefully allow the next executive board members to settle in to their roles knowledgeably.

As I write this, I am preparing for the election of my successor and face this transition with a great deal of satisfaction and anticipation. This year has provided me with arguably the most engaging leadership opportunity I have ever had and allowed us to create change at all levels of campus life.

Despite having to learn the ropes along the way, I believe that this year’s Senate will be remembered for its outreach, optimism and operation. It took the commitment of the 22 other members to put together what I believe is a successful year for this important organization.

When I pass off the gavel, it will be knowing that next year’s President will be in a good position to take over, and with eagerness to see his or her success.

I will transition with the next President having learned about the value of an active, optimistic and committed team. I will carry the lessons I have learned about leadership throughout all of my future pursuits. I will graduate in May with the firm belief that the 2012-13 Student Senate has left Marietta College in a better place.

In the end, this is all I could have ever asked for.

CONNOR WALTERS