Formerly referred to as the Student Assembly, the Student Congress (SC) has undergone more than a name change for the 2013-2014 academic year. The SC, the legislative branch of the Student Association (SA), has been completely restructured in order to foster more group participation.
The Student Outreach Committee, Rules Committee and Elections Committee will be replaced by a Student Life and Academic Affairs Committee, a General Affairs Committee and a Planning, Research and Elections Committee.
According to James Grippe, the speaker of the Student Congress, the structural changes will enable better discourse within the SC.
“The shift from being a Congress-central structure to a committee-central structure makes it so that the committees do a lot more on their own,” said Grippe, a senior majoring in computer science. “Each committee member is now contributing a lot more instead of two or three people leading the whole Congress. In the past you would have a couple reps who basically led every issue, and the committees didn’t do anything.”
The restructuring plan was voted on and approved in the spring semester.
According to Grippe, the Student Life and Academic Affairs Committee will tackle a range of issues, from trying to improve campus life to dealing with academic issues.
The Planning, Research and Elections Committee is currently working on creating more vegan options and getting more “allergy-aware” food in the dining halls.
The committees met for the first time on Oct. 7 and have only met once since then, but SA President Eric Larson says he is very optimistic about the restructuring.
“The creation of the new SLA committee will hopefully ensure that the student congress keeps its focus on current and relevant issues that face the student body,” Larson, a senior majoring in financial economics, wrote in an email. “Restructuring the other committees has re-balanced the responsibilities to more effectively address the day to day requirements of internal business.”
According to Grippe, last year’s Student Outreach Committee had a poor reputation.
“It ended up being named the Hot Chocolate Committee because they would basically have two hot chocolate events during the winter and you wouldn’t get anything else from them,” Grippe said.
But Grippe and other SA leaders are confident in the new structure.
“Initially I had doubts about the biweekly Congress meetings and the new focus on committee work, but Congress members seem to be working together and sharing ideas more productively than ever,” said Samson Widerman, vice president of the SA and a senior majoring in philosophy, politics and law. “This will generate stronger legislation that will bring more attention to issues on campus and the ability students have to address them. I’m really hopeful that the new Congress will generate very active and impactful leaders for our campus.”
According to Larson, the restructured committees are a big step forward.
“Between the increased ability to address procedural issues and a renewed effort to make meaningful improvements on campus, the Student Congress this year is positioned to be a much more valuable resource to the students it represents,” Larson said.
Adam Lipke, a freshman majoring in human development, said the SC’s visibility on campus is thus far lacking.
“Student Congress never emails us and I barely know who they are. I think they should play a bigger role at this college. I hope this restructuring makes them more involved,” Lipke said.