As a new academic year commences, William Jewell College’s Student Senate prepares and plans for the goals they aim to accomplish as they represent the student body. The crux of their agenda will be to unite the students in participation to identify student needs and stand together as a collective to see what needs to be implemented.
“Senate’s role will be bringing together a wide bureau of opinions and perspectives that students have, and then using myself as an outlet for those opinions to be heard,” said Student Senate president, Zak Carroll, sophomore Oxbridge institutions and policy major. As leader of Student Senate, Carroll prioritizes student perspectives and liberties in Senate’s policies and agendas.
“So as far as actual actions go, I’ll be more looking at what are areas in alcohol policy and parking ticket policy – and different areas in school policy – what are realistic places we can make a change and then once those opportunities come out, how can we leverage it for a compromise for students’ interest.”
The Student Senate is comprised of five senators from each class, four members of cabinet and an advisor, Sara Bailey. Senators are held to the standard of interacting with and representing their peers so as to better determine what the best steps forward will be for the campus. The recent first-years’ senator election had over 70% turnout for voting, an encouraging statistic to the goal of increasing participation.
“I was a little disappointed that 6/7 candidates were males, because I don’t think that’s representative of the first-year class,” said Carroll. The senate will consider these anomalies when taking stances on student matters. “We haven’t all shared the same experiences, so our goal will be to combat perceptions that would be negative and also ensure that a multitude of experiences are represented within each area of Senate.”
Student body participation is crucial to Senate, without which a republic representation cannot function accurately and effectively. This participation can be in the form of attending Senate-hosted events and giving feedback to representatives via surveys and senators. Last year’s Senate Communications Committee has evolved into the Student Outreach Committee aimed at achieving open, comfortable, transparent communication.
“It’s whenever we feel comfortable that we’re able to bloom and flourish and become leaders ourselves,” said Carroll.
With student feedback and opinions, the Senate plans to band together to address policy issues. Such actions were attempted last spring when the campus was still a restricted smoke and tobacco campus. Carroll’s cabinet prioritized expansion of tobacco zones in their campaign platform and, once elected, submitted their recommendations to the administration. Over the summer, William Jewell College became a completely smoke and tobacco-free campus.
“At the end of the day, you either have to have something of value or have to have a want from the administration for any policy to change; neither of those things were present in this instance,” said Carroll, who thought the changes to the policy were an impediment on student liberties.
The senate does not necessarily plan to drop the tobacco issue entirely, due to the circumstances where some upperclassmen came to Jewell with no expectations of this policy. Having already developed an addiction, these students now face penalization instead of medical aid to overcome the addiction. Carroll advocates for helping fellow citizens of the Jewell community with healthy aids for their addiction.
As the senate aims to aid the individuals of Jewell and band together as a community, Carroll predicts a path of attainable student interest.
“As a student body, if we all get on board with things, that’s going to have a lot more pressure on administration whenever we really want to use that political capital,” said Carroll. “We’ve done a really good job so far of connecting to other leaders on campus and building a community of ‘we the students,’ a union-type mindset, if you will.”
In particular, this political capital is being built for potential amendments to the alcohol policy. The alcohol policy has been a topic on the Senate floor for a few years and is still undergoing fermentation. The extensive amendment process is not one that the senate can easily accomplish without the collaborative assistance of students. What concerns senate is not only the restrictions of policies, but some of the underlying factors as well.
“You never know the intent of people, but the perception that you’re just doubling alcohol fines – or whatever they did to them over the summer – the perception that you’re just increasing them and then becoming stricter on them is worrisome,” said Carroll. “It makes it seem as if it’s more for a monetary thing.”
Alcohol violations are not the only citations with increased fines. Parking tickets are more expensive at Jewell than they are in the city of Liberty. Carroll is concerned that the increased monetary compensations are, or are perceived to be, a higher priority than other issues on campus.
If he could reform one aspect of William Jewell College, it would be to shed the dichotomy between liberal academia and conservative policies for they simply do not coexist well. Instead, Carroll would advocate for implementing student life policies that are compatible to the school’s teachings.
“The students are allowed to have their own opinions and make their own choices so long as it’s not harming another or the work of another, and I think that there is a great sense of that academic freedom on campus, which makes us great. I don’t think that students feel they can make reasonable choices – choices that may be detrimental to them – but that nevertheless they are willing to accept the consequences and responsibilities,” said Carroll. “[Students] don’t see that they can have that same freedom in their personal decisions without interference by Student Life.”
Aside from reading J.S. Mill, Carroll thinks the alcohol policy is one of the obvious applications in the pursuit of ending this dichotomy. Student liberties, enduring comradery and participation are among the foundation of Student Senate’s agenda as they lead the student body into another year. Students can reach out to their senators or attend any of the open Student Senate meetings held at 6:30 on Tuesday evenings if they would like to share their voice and views with Jewell’s student government.