The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Explaining how Student Senate works

By Christopher Cornell

In recent weeks The Daily Campus has reported extensively on the Student Senate, unfortunately it has reported some factual errors about how the Senate is structurally set up and what it does.

As Senate parliamentarian — the officer responsible Senate rules and structure — I felt it might be good to provide clarification to students about how the Senate
is set up and what it does.

First, some basic facts.

The Senate is empowered by the Student Body Constitution, the Senate By-Laws and the Senate Policies and Procedures, and is made up of two broad groups of members, senators and non-senators.

The senators fall into five groups, all of whom vote. These are 1) the parliamentarian (who is also a Senate officer), 2) the school senators (one for every 300 students in each school), 3) the first-year senators (one for every 300 first years), 4) the transfer senator (one for all of the transfer students), and 5) the special interest senators (senators who represent the concerns of the Asian-American, African-American, Hispanic-America, and International student populations).

The non-senators are the Student Body Officers (president, vice-president, secretary, and graduate affairs officer) all of whom vote, the other Senate officers (chief of staff who votes and speaker who votes to break ties), the committee chairs, general members, webmaster, and comptroller. Chairs only vote on electing the chief of staff unless they also serve as a senator (however, finance chair can’t be a senator), the webmaster and comptroller don’t vote unless they’re senators and general members never vote.

The student body and student Senate officers all exercise a number of important functions.

The president advocates for student issues and concerns with the administration; the graduate affairs officer does the same for the graduate students and chairs meetings of the graduate council presidents.

The vice-president also advocates and performs Senate administrative functions. The secretary takes minutes at Senate meetings, keeps track of Senate documents, and chairs the Code of Conduct revision committee.

The speaker presides over senate meetings and with the parliamentarian enforces senate procedure and rules.

The parliamentarian, who is an officer and a senator, enforces the rules and procedures of the Senate, makes sure senate legislation complies with the governing documents, and serves as speaker in the speaker’s absence.

The chief of staff makes sure the committees run smoothly and is the person who appoints members of most committees.

The Senate is the forum in which student issues and concerns are raised and it allocates funding to student organizations.

Senate advocacy occurs by members raising student concerns and taking them to the administration and working to find a solution. This typically happens through senate legislation, issue specific advocacy by members and through Senate committees.

Committees address specific issues and most of them are made up of senators and general student members. For more information please visit the Senate website.

Senate funding tends to raise many questions. Basically, part of the activities fee, $56 per student, is given to the senate to fund student organizations.

For every graduate student 75 percent of the $56 is given to the graduate councils in each school to fund graduate student organizations, as they are chartered and funded through the councils, not the senate.

The remainder is allocated to groups that apply and present their funding requests to the senate finance committee, which reviews requests and makes funding recommendations to the Senate.

After reviewing the proposals the Senate debates and votes on the final funding requests.

With this I hope students will have a better understanding of how their Senate works and what it does.

Cornell is a third year in the evening Juris Doctor program at the SMU Dedman School of Law.

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