New resources are being created to engage students who sit on the University Senate.
Student senators are supporting their successors by creating resources to ease the transition, according to Senate Caucus Chair Emils Matiss’ report to AMS Assembly on Oct. 24.
Student senators bridge the gap between the student body and Queen’s administration within the highest academic governance body at the University. They fulfill their roles by sitting on committees and representing students at faculty boards.
“If a student wants to reach out to, let’s say, dean of student affairs for a proposal, it’s almost impossible. You can send them an email, but they don’t ever respond,” Student Senate Caucus Vice-Chair Leo Yang said in an interview with The Journal.
Yang explained there aren’t many resources for students on senate outside of senator orientation, which is a website used to facilitate senators’ training. Yang expressed the need for a transition manual for incoming student senators.
“I might be going next year, and then if the incoming person takes my position, right now, we don’t have a system helping the incoming senators,” Yang said.
Most senate positions have a one-year term, leading to high turnover and making it harder for students to transition into their roles.
One of the big challenges for Yang is the decline in student engagement. The turnout for events run by the AMS, faculty societies, or other student clubs on campus is low unless there’s a big-name speaker, according to Yang.
Yang claimed to have brought his concerns about student engagement to Principal Patrick Deane, but these concerns were overshadowed by the University’s financial challenges.
“I feel like there’s a broken communication portal. If you can imagine a triangle with University administration, student government, and students, there’s some sort of distrust or lack of collaboration,” Yang said.
To close the gap and build trust, Yang believes students need to identify with all three units of the University. Resources, including student senator transition manuals, can lay out how and why they should engage with Queen’s administration on a deeper level.
Yang’s proposal to make students more familiar with governing bodies is to have targeted activities for first-year students, educating them on academic resources, student government opportunities, and other ways of getting involved.
“Even though we have some problems at Queen’s when it comes to student engagement, overall, it’s not comparable to other universities. For example, we have students sitting on the Board of Trustees, which at some universities doesn’t exist,” Yang said.
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