Student Council President Phillip Gray Clark ’17 is scrambling to find an alternative to Campus Senate. The legislative body hasn’t met once this year, and the College needs to find another option in order for StuCo to pass statutes and suggest policy changes.
“Whatever Student Council does needs to be approved by the Senate,” Clark said. “And right now, there is no Senate.”
After the College’s re-evaluation last spring of the role Senate plays on campus, the organization fell apart, according to Clark. Vice President of Student Affairs Meredith Bonham ’92 said this was because the exact function of Senate wasn’t clear. Bonham thinks this is largely because many aspects of Senate are now outdated — the College created the Senate during a time when there were fewer administrative positions. Over the years, as the College created new positions, the role of Senate began to diminish.
“For example, if there is a question or concern about housing and residential life that now just simply goes to the Director of Housing and Residential Life,” Bonham said. “Whereas before that might have been an issue Campus Senate took up and then bought to the dean of students.”
Last year, faculty chair of Campus Senate and Associate Professor of English Sarah Heidt and Colin Cowperthwaite ’18, student chair, attempted to revamp the size and structure of Senate. They are still working on a plan to make Senate more relevant on campus, but they have not come to any final conclusions, according to Bonham. She is in discussions with President Sean Decatur to possibly change Senate’s structure and size as well as ensure the represenation of all groups on campus.
Clark said he is meeting with Bonham on Wednesday to discuss the possibility of an emergency approval of certain changes to StuCo’s constitution, which went to Senate last year before the committee fell apart and stopped meeting.
“Senate definitely does need to have a look at themselves in the mirror this semester and really find out what they are and what they hope to accomplish,” Clark said.
“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 in an interview with the Collegian in February 2016.