BLAKELY HEATON AND MATTHEW DEL BUSTO / STAFF REPORTERS
Why the switch?
The Student Government Association will transition from an assembly structure to a senate structure this year. Student government president Katelyn Sussli identified two main flaws in the previous assembly structure.
“One (flaw) was that there was an inconsistency in who was attending these meetings,” Sussli said. “One representative would be there one week and they would alternate or there would be constantly a new representative the whole semester. As you can imagine, when you’re talking about such serious matters, you need consistent feedback. They spent a lot of time going back and giving overviews instead of spending that time talking about topics and really getting to go into detail and really allow students to have investment in them.”
Sussli said the new Senate system will give more consistency to the student government structure, as the senator will have his or her position for the entire academic year.
The Senate structure, Sussli said, will help students know exactly who they need to go to if they have a problem or an issue they want to address. She addressed concerns with such a big change to the student government structure.
She said the initial concern was keeping organizations engaged. Whereas previously organizations would have a representative in the SGA meetings, now there are no designated senators specifically for organizations, except for a single fraternity senator and two sorority senators. Sussli said she has been part of a process to develop an organization listserv with organization presidents to send out newsletters to keep them up to date.
Paige Haefer, vice president of student initiatives, said there have been some concerns about organizations, but said that sometimes organizations have been relieved they do not have to worry about who is going to go to the assembly that week. She also said the handful of students in assembly who were really passionate about attending for legislative meetings will likely be running for senator positions.
In order to still bring organizations together, Sussli said there will be a leadership summit second semester, which will be a requirement for all organizations.
Sussli said the hope is to gather some of Butler’s “strongest leaders and be able to learn from one another in a peer-teaching-peer experience” from this summit.
Another concern Sussli addressed was the smaller number of senators this year. However, she said the smaller number helps to legitimize the role and help those involved to take the position more seriously.
Haefer, too, said, “The smaller group will allow for more discussion, (and) more engagement with those members and we’re hoping to get a lot more participation than we did with the assembly.”
Additionally, Sussli said each senator will be required to have a certain number of events for each one’s constituents every semester, such as a coffee chat in Starbucks, in order for people to be more familiar with the senate in their respective area.
Sussli also said that once a month the SGA plans to have a concerned student forum in which all Butler students will be invited to attend the Senate meeting and voice concerns. She said the Senate will be working closely with the Student Initiatives Board to take the student concerns and put them forward into projects.
“There’s going to be a great relationship and partnership between the Senate and the Student Initiatives Board so that concerns are being communicated and becoming projects,” Sussli said.
Tentatively, Sussli said Senate meetings will be weekly Wednesdays at 6 p.m. in the Johnson Room in Robertson Hall, with a likely first meeting Sept. 30.
“The Senator is really an ambassador and an advocate to help better our student campus and to make sure that we are acting in the Butler Way and that we are living up to our Community of C.A.R.E. and the model we pride ourselves on being,” Sussli said.
Senator elections to occur Sept. 21
The election date for SGA’s new Senate structure is set for Sept. 21. Each Butler student will receive an individualized survey to vote for his or her respective senators. Sussli said every Butler student will have three-pronged representation, by class standing, academic college and residence hall.
Whereas the previous assembly structure might have allowed one student to be represented eight times and another student represented just once, Sussli said each student will now be represented equally.
“In any really democratic society, unequal representation is not something that we wanted to strive for. So, with the Senate model, every student will be represented three times,” Sussli said.
Sussli said everything is very accessible to students whether “you’re running as a senator or you’re just very interested in being able to know your voice is represented.” She said students will be included in the campaigning process through listserv, emails, posters and plenty of student-candidate interactions before the election takes place. Additionally, she said each candidate has a $10 campaign budget.
“Based on the response we’ve received, I’m anticipating a lot of interest within the different positions which I think is a great testament to the Butler students we have here,” Sussli said.
“For the most part, (feedback) has been really positive,” Haefer said. “I think there are still some clarifications for older students but it really does help to launch it with a new year and help to push it out to the first year student class.”