Student Senate to focus on raising awareness of issues, says president

Posted September 14, 2015

After taking care of the student government’s summer chores, current Student Senate President Christopher Morgan has big plans for the new academic year.

At its April 7 meeting last semester, Student Senate passed bylaw changes that included the addition of a summer administrator position to tend to the senate’s responsibilities over the summer.

Although the requirement for the summer administrator to stay on campus during the summer months was later changed, Morgan said that he believes that adding the position allowed Student Senate to be productive over the break.

“A lot of work that needed to get done for this to be a successful year had to happen during the summer,” said Morgan. “And so with that position online and working it was a great way to make that happen.”

When it comes to what had to be done over the summer, Morgan said that most of his responsibilities involved laying the groundwork for this year’s Senate. This included building up an executive board and filling out the agenda for this academic year.

Morgan also traveled to Washington, D.C., this summer to attend the Presidential Leadership Summit and the White House Youth Conference. There, he said, he met with several other campus presidents that put the struggles of the past year into perspective.

“You go there and you realize that everyone is kind of struggling in terms of ‘there’s just never enough money, our administration is telling us that we can’t do a certain thing we really want to do,'” said Morgan. “So everyone gets an idea that everyone has a shared struggle going about getting what they want done throughout the year.”

One issue that UWRF faced last semester and over the summer was the $250 million cut to the UW System’s biennial budget. Because of this, the UWRF budget was cut by about $3.31 million, which resulted in the “reduction of 50 full-time equivalent positions,” according to the UW-River Falls 2015-2017 Biennial Budget Impacts Fact Sheet.

With students and faculty feeling the harsh realities of budget cuts, Morgan said a big focus this year will be improving morale, especially when it comes to faculty. This involves finding ways to show the faculty that their loyalty to the university is appreciated.

“It will be a tough two years,” said Morgan. “But if we stay together and act more as a family and not as just strangers, we can kind of weather the storm through this budget process.”

Morgan said that this year Student Senate will work more towards raising awareness on important issues rather than just throwing events, using the example of not putting on concerts just because it’s fun.

“Years past, some issues get dropped from the focus,” said Morgan. “And I just want to make sure that the issues that truly matter get focused on.”

One issue, according to Morgan, that will continue to be a focus of Student Senate this year is the “It’s On Us” campaign, which was nationally launched by President Barack Obama in September 2014 to end sexual assault on college campuses. Student Senate then brought the campaign to UWRF in October 2014.

One “It’s On Us” event that is planned for later this month will take place in the Ann Lydecker Living Learning Center, and will include the showing of “The Hunting Ground,” a film about sexual assault on college campuses, and a Q&A session with members of the UWRF administration and health officials.

With the budget of $3,600 approved at the Student Senate meeting on Sept. 8, Chipotle is planned to cater this event. This event is tentatively scheduled for Monday, Sept. 28, and will be the first of many events centered around the topic of sexual assault prevention.

“We’re just having a full years worth of events planned for this campaign,” said Morgan.

Another issue that Senate will be focusing on this year will be working to end the stigma attached to mental illness, with the goal of having zero suicides on campus this year.

One event to bring awareness to this cause is a color run-type event that would involve the community of River Falls along with the university. This event is in the very early stages of planning, having just been introduced to the Senate at the Sept. 8 meeting. This event is planned to happen during spring semester.

Other important issues that Morgan said Student Senate will be focusing on are promoting inclusivity and sustainability on campus. Sustainability efforts will include working toward a climate-neutral campus, said Morgan, and Senate also wants to work with the student organization Environmental Corps of Sustainability (ECOS), to plan an event for Earth Day.

“We really want to plot a course that would lead us to dealing directly with issues that students are facing,” Morgan said. “We’re very motivated, and we’re very encouraged for this next year.”