The replacement of Scripps College’s Hall Council with the Student Senate this semester was a long time coming, said Emily Jovais SC ’13, President of Scripps Associated Students (SAS).
The Hall Council was not attached to SAS and the council’s focus was on events in the residence halls, not school-wide decisions. In contrast, the Senate has the power to draft resolutions that could change the structure of SAS and enact changes around Scripps.
Any Scripps student is allowed to vote in Senate meetings after attending three meetings.
“The power structure now is much more dispersed, which was a huge impetus of the change,” Jovais said.
The change from Hall Council to the Senate began when Samuel Haynes, the faculty adviser for SAS, recommended that SAS try to form a new representative body at the school to keep up with the structure that many colleges now have. Students were not strongly represented in the previous structure because of the small number of people that made up SAS’s leadership.
The SAS Senate comprises 27 people: three representatives from each residence hall and three students living off-campus.
Jovais said that at the next Senate meeting, scheduled for Dec. 3, the Senate will choose issues to focus on for the rest of the year. She said that the Senate might advocate LEED certification of Scripps’s new residence hall and ask the administration to consider changing the Core Curriculum from three to two semesters.
The Senate must approve any changes to SAS’s budget, which helps fund many of the school’s clubs and organizations. Changes to the SAS Constitution are also subject to the Senate’s approval.
“Before, we didn’t have a legislative body to make funding decisions or approve the budget,” Jovais said.
Before the formation of the Senate, Jovais said, the 22 people who formed the SAS Executive Branch and Programming Branch made almost all of the decisions for SAS, including changes to the organization’s budget and constitution. Now, with the creation of the Senate, 49 students are SAS representatives.
Each senator is required to be a member of at least one of nine SAS Senate committees, which range from Diversity and Inclusivity to Sexual Assault to Holiday Dinner Planning. The Hall Council did not include committees.
Theresa Iker SC ’14, a member of the Senate, said that every Scripps student has a stake in SAS decisions and that their voices should be heard.
“No one knows what you’re thinking unless you tell them,” Iker said. “Participating in the Senate helps with that.”
“The Senate instantly brings students closer to SAS,” said Alexa Kopelman SC ’13, Vice President of SAS. “It’s a great way to become part of the family.”
Although the Senate plans to hold mandatory meetings only once a month, the committees are designed to meet on a more regular basis. The Sexual Assault Committee, for example, meets every other week alongside other clubs and organizations with Dean of Students Bekki Lee to discuss sexual assault policies and awareness.
In addition, the senators are required to plan two hall events each semester. One of these events, a screening of the movie Mean Girls, will be held in Kimberly Hall tonight.
Vaishali Ravi SC ’15 was a member of the Hall Council last year and is now a member of the SAS Senate. So far, she said, she supports the change.
“It’s working much better,” she said. “There’s actually a system in place now, and the SAS president is much more involved.”
Ravi added, however, that she thinks the Senate has not yet reached its full potential.
“So far we’ve been mostly focused on hall events,” she said.
She added that she is “not sure how strong our voices will be” when applied to other topics.
A member of the Committee on Diversity and Inclusivity, Ravi said that her committee had not yet had its first meeting.
“I think it was a really good idea,” Ravi said of the switch to the Senate. “But moving forward, I hope that giving the Senate more power is the leaders’ goal.”
Jovais said that the Senate has room to grow.
“The biggest challenge has been educating people about the Senate and showing them our vision of what it could be,” she said.
“This is definitely kind of a tester year,” she added. “At the end of the year, we’ll have students fill out a detailed survey about what they think needs to be changed about the system.”