Section: News

‘Dysfunctional’ Senate looks to improve effectiveness

‘Dysfunctional’ Senate looks to improve effectiveness

Three years after Campus Senate passed a smoking policy enforcing Ohio state law, Senate members realized their legislation had not been put into effect as they had planned.

“This is a policy that passed through senate unanimously, as far as we can tell, that had very clear recommendations to the appropriate offices,” Sarah Heidt, associate professor of English and faculty co-chair of Campus Senate, said. Heidt said Senate “made specific reference to parts of the Ohio Revised Code that signaled the ways that we were out of compliance with the law, and nothing happened.”

After this realization, Senate members and other administrators have been actively working to reshape Senate’s role so the group can be more effective in actualizing change at the College. They also hope to create a system where Senate can directly address concerns submitted by the Kenyon community, particularly at this time when communication between the students and administration is a major talking point on campus.

Heidt, along with members of Student Council and a Senate subcommittee, have recently drafted a new structure for “Senate 2.0” that would include six students and six administrators — nine positions fewer than campus senate’s current composition of 11 students and 11 administrators. Heidt and student government members hope this will bring greater representation to students and other campus groups who are currently being underrepresented, such as hourly employees of the College, who currently have no representation on Senate.

Heidt hopes Senate 2.0 will be able to include President Sean Decatur in their weekly meetings, unlike the current Senate, which has been meeting in his absence for the past year and a half.

“We’re hoping that we can get written down some explicit lines of communication between Student Council and the administration,” Heidt said. “Specifically the president’s office and the student affairs office.”

However, the new composition for Senate 2.0 is far from finalized and, according to Heidt, the current Senate is not willing to commit to any finalized plan until further discussion.

In a Council meeting two weeks ago, Dean of Students Hank Toutain described senate as “dysfunctional”; Toutain said his intention was not to make a disparaging comment on the state of Senate, but rather to address the issue of Senate’s effectiveness.

“I think Campus Senate is something that can be improved,” Toutain said. “I just think that … we have to think more critically about the composition of senate. And the ways it does or does not interact with other governing bodies on campus.”

Colin Cowperthwaite ’18, student co-chair of Senate, agreed that the group is dysfunctional, and hopes that the new structure will promote administrative and campus-wide collaboration.

“The biggest thing for a Campus Senate is to preserve the dialogue between the administration and students and faculty and staff here at Kenyon,” Cowperthwaite said.

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