Cerros circulates survey on how senate meetings could be more welcoming

ASUO senate meeting. (Emerald Archives)

In order for an ASUO recognized student organization to get funding for its events through the incidental fee, student leaders must first present at senate meetings the details of what they want funding for.

This involves speaking in front of 22 senators and an audience. The elected leaders then begin prodding the speaker with questions to ensure that everything that they are asked to fund is culturally and academically enriching the college experience of the more than 20,000 students who contribute to the I-fee. Sometimes impassioned debates will then breakout among the senators.

On Thursday, October 15th, ASUO Senator, Abel Cerros, released the “ASUO Senate Feedback Survey” — a survey to get input from community members on ways ASUO senators can help make senate meetings a more welcoming environment for student groups.

“You go into a room and find yourself surrounded by senators, and it can be intimidating, especially for people who are not comfortable with speaking in front of large audiences” Cerros said.

One of the questions included on the survey asks whether or not a survey taker would like the idea of having access to a “Senator liaison,” which could come in the form of a newly hired non-voting senator who would stand alongside student group presenters, and inform them on what is going on in the process. A senator liaison could also meet with the group prior to the senate meeting, and provide details to what to expect at the meeting procedurally.

Dunn assisted Cerros by helping to contribute questions to the “ASUO Senate Feedback Survey,” and is a part of Cerros’s committee to work out the exact responsibilities that the new position will entail.

“Our job is to serve students, and provide them with a space where they can come talk to us. So this committee and this position is an absolute necessity for the future of the ASUO.” Dunn said.

Also in the works as part of the effort to make senate meetings more inclusive, are laminated forms, which are to be handed to the audience members of senate meetings. On one side, a parliament procedure chart will be provided so new attendants can be informed of the meaning behind the ASUO senate terms. On the other, the ground rules will be displayed on how to be respectful to both senators and audience members.

ASUO Senator, Max Burns, helped design the parliamentary procedure part of the guide. Senators would like to see audience members being cordial, but they are in no means bound to be, Burns said.

“They might be there to drive home a point, which is fine, and we have a vehicle for that in public forum, but as soon as public forum is over, parliamentary procedure and the rules we have are there for a reason,” Burns said.

For Burns, parliamentary procedure during meetings would level the playing field for students to have a chance to speak in front of ASUO senators.

“It’s there to make it so that everybody gets a fair shot of being heard, and when people don’t necessarily follow those guidelines, they are taking away from other people,” he said.

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