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Student Senate: The Loudest Wildcats on Campus

As Student Senate begins its 45th session, what’s in store for the 2023-2024 school year?
Student Senate had their first meeting of the year last Sunday.

DURHAM, NH- Peter T. Paul College’s Room 185 was nearly packed to the brim last Sunday evening, as the Student Senate held its first meeting of the year. While the agenda was rather introductory, the student advocate group previewed much of what is to come for the year.

Newly elected Student Body President Joseph Skehan and Vice President MJ Condon highlighted various goals throughout, mainly focusing on upping the Senate’s engagement with the greater student population.

“Over the past summer we’ve been working a lot on relationship building with administrators and the student body because traditionally there is this gap between the student body and the student senate,” Skehan said. “So MJ and I have been trying to fix that.”

Condon emphasized her main goals for the year are “engagement, supporting cabinet chairs and helping students find community.” 

The pair ran on a platform of better communicating senate happenings and impacts with the general student body. Communication, they said, is the most effective way to build up that cohesion.

During most of the organization’s 6:00 pm Sunday meetings, Skehan and Condon lead the session alongside Senate Speaker Maggie Keenan – but a student senator’s work doesn’t stop there. Each member of the student senate must join at least one committee within a council, which designates their focus of advocacy work for the yearly session. Councils include academic affairs, community development, campus structure, judicial affairs and first-year life, among others. These councils work on resolutions, which then are brought to the Senate floor and, when passed, are a more formal way to communicate student’s opinions to the administration.

This past Sunday’s meeting was more topical, as co-advisors Melissa Beecher, director of Memorial Union Building (MUB) and student activities, and Dean of Students Michael Blackman welcomed members and answered questions from the crowd. 

Both expressed how excited they were to see the rise in interest in the student senate, which they judged based on the number of sign ups and the level of engagement from their members. 

“Involvement and engagement has already been so much higher just in the first three weeks of the semester than in the couple of years I’ve seen being in this role,” Beecher said. 

Blackman went on further to say, “Last year, we saw a lot of initial interest from students, but it didn’t really convert into doing as much as we would’ve liked. So this year, we’re seeing huge interest and then people signing up to do things.”

Blackman and Beecher also discussed topics like the merger with UNH and Granite State College and UNH President James Dean’s recent retirement announcement.

“Whenever there’s a huge leadership change like that, there’s a lot of opportunity for change at a university,” Blackman said.

One of these changes that the university may see is improved communications between the university and students’ families. Blackman described how the university wants to improve the way that they communicate with family members of students, making sure to be respectful, organized and more thoughtful. 

“I’m excited that by the end of this year we might have a better grip on how we get in touch with student’s family in a much more respectful way,” Blackman said.

With less restrictions stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and more interest in student clubs and activities, most are hopeful that the group may be able to accomplish more this year. 

“I feel like this is the first year in a while that we really are going to be fully functioning in a lot of ways,” Beecher said.

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Aimee Rothman
Aimee Rothman, Staff Writer

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