Knowing is half the battle and the leadership of this year’s Student Association (SA) said they have a fight on their hands.
Last semester there was a shortage of senators, with only 15 acting members sitting on the legislative body out of 25. This fall, there is a shortage of representation on committees to address issues ranging from the SA constitution to the budget, according to SA President Terrell Coakley.
“We have all of these committees that we haven’t filled, and when all that stuff happened [last semester] with the budget, [student complaints were] with not having a voice, but they give us all these committees to actually take part in [with] what goes on with our school,” said Coakley. “So it’s important to let people understand what we do.”
Student leaders such as Coakley, Vice President of Academic Affairs and Governance Ayanna Thomas and Senate Chair Alberto Aquino said they want more people to be aware of SA and it’s responsibilities on campus.
Thomas said she wants at least “85 percent of the campus” to know what SA does. She said the trouble with presenting to classes about SA and her position is that students had no prior knowledge that her position even existed.
In addition to getting to word out on SA in general, Thomas said she also wants to increase student participation on committees. Committees such as, but not limited to, Academic Affairs, Education and Technology, Liberal Education Ad Hoc and Constitution and Rules Committee.
“I’ll be going to classes, talking about joining these committees,” said Thomas. “These committees are under facts of governance and are open to anyone. You don’t have to be a senator to join.”
Meanwhile, Aquino said a joint-effort first priority would be to fill all of these vacant committee spots. He also said attention would be paid to filling any empty
student leadership positions as well. Aquino also wants to create a more effective communication network between Resident Hall Student Association (RHSA) and with club leaders and every organization on campus.
“This year is really about getting ourselves out there, and letting people know that SA offers a lot,” he said.
Aquino also mentioned other priorities in his new role which include pushing senators to be more effective in their legislative duties, making senate meetings shorter, seeing that every member of SA is “active” -—this includes getting involved with a project either in or outside of the office—and exploring how the college can create a network with other campuses in the region.
Aquino was inspired to create this network in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene and subsequent flooding. He said Marist College contacted him asking if they could help with the repair efforts at New Paltz.
“I want our senate and student association to have that influence on the Hudson Valley,” said Aquino. “I want to be proud of leading or helping [with] SUNY New Paltz.”
Coakley said not enough information regarding SA is reaching students. One of his top priorities includes ensuring, since many of his current E-board members are graduating, students are still interested in SA involvement. He said that SA has to touch upon the “student experience,” and that contributing to their college environment mirrors real world experience.
Meanwhile, when it comes to the student senate, Coakley said he would like to see parties come back. In the past, senators would run on a certain party line, like advocacy. He said he wants people to challenge themselves with why they are voting a certain way instead of making senate elections “a popularity contest.”
All 25 senate seats have been filled as of the last Academic Senate meeting on Sept. 13. Committee seats are still open as student leaders continue to rely on word-of-mouth campaigns, class presentations and fliers.
“This [current] senate is really versatile with age, class and as far as people’s majors,” said Coakley. “[This semester] has a lot of positive energy.”