For those who may not know, Otterbein University Senate has just passed the first of two parts of the proposed governance changes. The second part is scheduled for Senate’s next meeting in February. If part two is passed, then for the first time in Otterbein’s history there will be a student, faculty, administrator and staff senates, each with their own rules.
Preparations for student senate have already begun. An adviser for the new student senate has already been chosen and students can find “I can ‘card’ly wait for student government” posters on almost every billboard on campus. Student senate elections are scheduled for spring semester. Given that the first part of the changes was passed by senate unanimously, it is likely that the second part will easily pass as well.
However, as much as the members of senate seem to be in support of a new model, there is always a chance that the vote on the changes will fail or be postponed. A postponement has happened before during the elimination of J-term last year and the vote on the first part of the proposed changes at the October senate meeting, meaning it could happen again.
It’s important that these changes are adopted as soon as possible because direct student government has many benefits to the student body:
1. Students will be able to govern students
Student Senate will have the power to vote on policy and issues relating to student affairs. Though, If the issue addresses a far-reaching policy that impacts everyone, not just students, the entire senate will need to take action and vote. Apart from this, there are many policies that can be put on the table, such as operating hours for the library, LGBT housing, quiet hours and/or food. It may be too early to see how radically Student Senate may change campus, but the possibilities are enough for students to look forward to.
2. Students will be more aware of governance opportunities
Currently, there are more Senate seats than there are student senators. This has been the case for years, and student senate, which will hold less seats, can remedy this. With the introduction of something new that can potentially change the face of Otterbein’s campus, student awareness will increase.
3. Senators will be more representative of the student population
Collette Masterson, who will be the adviser for student governance, said that with less senate seats, she hopes to make senate more representative of the student population, with students representing different classes, different departments, students of color and/or the LGBTQ community. With a more diverse group of students holding more power to change Otterbein, there is a much better chance that issues will be addressed fairly and quickly.
4. The process to approve student organizations will be more efficient
The current process to approve a new student organization, fraternity or sorority has many similarities to the process for approving a major. According to the Otterbein website, organizations must be presented to the Vice President of Student affairs, go through a one-year probationary period, seek approval from the Student life committee and get approval from Senate. Student government has made it one of their goals to streamline this process.
5. All the other guys have them
6. It’s nerve-wracking to stand up in front of your professors
Kelsey Woodard, junior early education major, said that this was particularly intimidating when she stood up at during the debate on J-term last year. In order to voice their opinions and express themselves, students either have to participate in a committee or speak up in front of an auditorium full of faculty and administrators who they may not know. Student government will alleviate this pressure by creating an environment in which students can speak in front of a smaller audience consisting mostly of their peers.
7. Student government may restore the spirit of university governance
Governance’s golden age at Otterbein was arguably in the 60’s and 70’s. While protests and violence erupted in other colleges, Otterbein students were relatively pleased with the way the university gave them a voice. Students were involved in Senate and many to-be and would-be senators purchased ads in the Tan and Cardinal Newspaper.
Just as the Tan and Cardinal adapted to changing trends with its transformation into Otterbein360, Senate must adapt to these trends by converting to the proposed model. With changing trends in enrollment, Senate must act accordingly to help ensure Otterbein's survival.