Student Senate trying to move past attendance failures

The group approved 15 new senators at its Thursday meeting.

Cali Owings

The University of Minnesota Student Senate unanimously approved 15 appointed senators Thursday for the Twin CitiesâÄô campus.

But becoming a new senator may mean skipping classes and other commitments.

There will be strict attendance enforcement this year. Senators who have two unexcused absences will forfeit membership. Last year, they were allowed three unexcused absences.

Jenna Cieslak, a Student Senator from the Law School, said the meeting time for student senate was very inconvenient for law students and she had to skip her class that day to attend.

In the future, law students might not be able to attend the meeting at all, Cieslak said.

âÄúWe are really worried we are going to lose our seat,âÄù she said.

Last year, the Student Senate attempted to fix the issue by passing a resolution to include Student Senate meetings on the excused absences policy.

Aaron Carlson, Student Senate chair, said the resolution for changing the excused absence policy to include student senators was âÄúlost.âÄù The group will try to pass the resolution again this year.

The senators from Duluth may have already taken one of their absences.

When the meeting started, representatives from across the state âÄì Duluth, Crookston, Morris and Rochester âÄì introduced themselves over a closed television network.

But when the cameras flicked back to the long-distance counterparts after a presentation on the senateâÄôs history and organization, one group was missing.

 âÄúDuluth? Duluth?âÄù Carlson called at the empty classroom on the screen.

Carlson said meeting attendance last year was a âÄúfailureâÄù and he hoped better communication would improve that. He suggested senators call each other rather than sending e-mails, to encourage meeting attendance and build human connections.

 

âÄòA stronger student senateâÄô

The senateâÄôs nominating sub-committee received over 175 applications to fill seats for the 11 different schools and colleges.

New senators will bring different issues from their personal experience.

Takayuki Inukai, a third-year international student from Japan studying journalism and mathematics, is one of four new student senators for the College of Liberal Arts.

Inukai, who has difficulty seeing far away, said he wanted to work on accessibility issues in the senate this year.

He suggested improvements to signs for restrooms and elevators that would make them easier to find in buildings such as Tate Laboratory of Physics or Walter Library where he works as a tutor.

The new student senator from the College of Design also has issues she wants to address. A fourth-year retail merchandising major, Tracy Dalluge is also taking classes in the Carlson School of Management for a management minor.

She said management minors are at a disadvantage because they are not allowed into Carlson career fairs or other events for Carlson students.

Before Dalluge came to the University last year, she served on Student Senate at the Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Fergus Falls.

She said she was aware of the problems Senate had last year with attendance and maintaining quorum.

âÄúI am hoping this year we will get a stronger Student Senate with people who are passionate and actually show up for meetings,âÄù Dalluge said.