The Indianapolis Student Government founded a new on-campus leadership body known as the Student Senate, which held its inaugural meeting on Feb. 1.
Senior communication major and ISG President DyNishia Miller said that she came into office with a fresh outlook and a question-everything mentality. She said that she actually got the idea for a student senate from her mother, who was a student senator at Manchester College.
Miller said that former ISG advisor Dan Stoker told her to run with the idea and the ISG Executive Board was open to the idea as well. Miller did research on similar bodies at other universities and originally struggled with the specifics, but Stoker told her just to worry about the general framework and getting the idea off the ground.
Miller met several times last semester with a planning committee to develop the framework. She said that though the numbers are not concrete the Student Senate is composed of the ISG Executive Board, the planning committee, a representative from each of the 52 registered student organizations, undergraduate students appointed by deans and representation from the largest areas of graduate school programs. Miller said that the committee made sure to include graduate students because it had heard that graduates wanted to be more involved on campus.
Miller said that she noticed the lack of student voice and activism even before she became ISG president, and she personally experienced this lack while representing the Black Student Association at RSO roundtable meetings.
“I recognized even before student government that there was not a platform for students to come together and voice our concerns from all different areas,” she said.
Miller said although students were not vocalizing a need for representation before, she has seen that student senators are glad to represent their groups.
“We did not really have a lot of students actually come to us and say, ‘We need a place where we can meet,’” Miller said. “But within this first Student Senate meeting they said, ‘Oh, we love this.’”
Miller said that she has already seen from meetings with the administration that they are seeing the Student Senate as a body to come to and a new direct line for student opinions.
According to Student Activities Coordinator Stephanie Barry, regulations now require RSO-appointed senators to attend the monthly Student Senate meetings in order to request new funding for that month. Barry said that the Student Senate also offers a training and leadership opportunity and requirement for the RSO leadership.
Junior global leadership major and Co-President of UIndy PRIDE Stephanie Kalili said that the Student Senate is a good thing for various reasons.
“I think the Student Senate is a great idea. It gives all the RSOs on campus a voice to be heard,” Kalili said. “The Student Senate is a great replacement for the allocation meetings and round tables that we previously attended for funding.”
Miller said that seeing Student Senators be able to enjoy themselves while having their voice heard on campus has been rewarding. She said, however, that the planning committee had not envisioned the process as fun.
“One of the biggest things is that at this first meeting everyone really enjoyed themselves. People came up to us and said, ‘We had fun,’” Miller said. “When we had everything all set up, they really enjoyed voicing issues.”
ISG UNITY Chair and senior international relations major Destinee Harris, said that she would like to see the Student Senate serve as a platform for student voices to be heard at UIndy. She is proud of what ISG has accomplished in founding the Student Senate. She said that its creation was a long time coming and hopes that the body will continue to have supportive partners.
“The Student Senate provides a great opportunity to strengthen the campus community,” Harris said. “It is our hope that the faculty and staff can visit and verbalize how we can work together to ensure that the requests and demands of the Student Senate are met.”
Miller said that she hopes the Student Senate will show students how they can contribute to campus in a meaningful way.
“I hope that students will recognize the importance of being heard,” Miller said. “A lot of people like to complain, but they do not want to help do anything about it or do not know how. That is what we are here for.”