Clack! A gavel at the front of the room hits the wood table, and the sea of chatter surrounding you slowly dwindles into silence. You look to your left, and then to your right, only to find students just like yourself dressed in semi-formal attire. Their attention is aimed at a PowerPoint slide titled “Student Senate Meeting – 10/1/18.”
As you might’ve guessed, this is a typical Student Senate meeting here at Juniata. Every two weeks, representatives from each class, different committees, and select other groups on campus come together to discuss solutions to issues facing students. Often times, there will also be a member of the administration presenting on pressing matters or giving senators the most up-to-date-information.
Just two meetings ago, President Troha himself presented the college’s budget to the body of student representatives. He discussed the college’s goals for the future, the introduction of new programs – like Mock Trial and eSports – to enhance the student experience, and reaffirmed the administration’s accountability to the student body.
When I asked about student government as I toured other schools, my questions were often dodged as if I had brought up some kind of scandal. I quickly found that at these schools, student government had no power to enforce their decisions or make any kind of real change. At other schools, these “student governments” represented a single interest group or weren’t committed to action.
When I first got involved in Student Senate at Juniata in my freshman year, I was amazed at how many groups of students were represented, and further, how much they actually accomplished. Through fair elections in every class, the appointment of 10 senators on behalf of a student advocacy group known as Students Advocating for Universal Respect, and the work of other specific committees, Juniata’s Student Senate beautifully represents students from all classes and identities. Last year, these students were able to get more bike racks and recycling bins on campus and assist in the selection process of a new food provider. These are just a few examples of the collective action of Juniata’s student body.
The experience of working with so many other students to collectively improve the lives of students as Freshman Class President is something I wouldn’t give up for anything. If you’re looking to make change in your new environment, give back to your community, and represent your peers, I suggest Student Senate at Juniata College.