Volume 97 Issue 5 News

Juniata Student Government Senate creates new groups

by Taylor Smallwood

Juniata College’s Student Government added two new groups, the Advocates for Universal Respect and the Projects Committee, whose members will participate in senate and complete various tasks.

The Student Government Executive Board began discussing these new groups before the current school year, but are now being created to satisfy needs of the campus. Interim Assistant Dean of Students and Student Government Advisor Dawn Scialabba said, “The needs of the organization and the needs of the College changes, so they sort of evolve over time. The ability to make those changes and govern themselves, certainly those are things that the College and the administration are happy to have Student Government be doing.”

The change from the Diversity Panel to the Advocates for Universal Respect was made because the previous structure of diversity groups was limiting participation. The representatives had to be in the domestic minority, international minority or LGBTQIA category. “In the past, it hasn’t worked. We weren’t really getting interest because they had to be in those categories,” said senior Lauren Lesser, president of the student government executive board. “This year we wanted to open it up to anyone who was interested and not put a label on who could apply. We were looking to expand senate in the coming semesters, so this was a good place to start.”

The Advocates for Universal Respect will mainly present and discuss issues regarding respect on campus, collaborate with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and run programs or initiate conversations. Scialabba said, “They can meet these goals by serving in those various roles. The idea is that they are bringing forward and advocating for any initiatives that are going to happen on campus.”

The student government advisors hope this group will help to maintain a positive campus climate. Scialabba said, “My hope is that it provides opportunities for a variety of voices from within our student body. I think that the more opportunities there are for those interactions, the more opportunity there is for greater understanding and awareness among our entire campus.”

All of the students who applied were given positions in this group. Scialabba said, “The Executive Board felt like there were so many good candidates so they felt positively about the fact that they all have something to offer, and they decided to go ahead and offer positions to all of those who applied, being that they all brought different things to the table.”  

Senate, the legislative branch of Student Government, discussed and voted on aspects of the applications for the Advocates for Universal Respect and the Projects Committee. The applications were sent out late Oct., and the positions were announced in the first week of Nov.

The Projects Committee currently consists of two project managers. The Committee will hold their positions for one year as they work on their initiatives: a peer mentor program and academic software. Scialabba said, “They were looking for people who would really be able to take responsibility for and move forward for various initiatives that were of concern to Student Government and to the larger student body.”

This group will research options for each of these initiatives and work with various people on campus who may be able to help them achieve their goals, but their structure is not set in stone either. Jessica Maxon, interim director of student activities, director of community service and service learning, and student government advisor, said, “Sometimes with goals, the timeline changes. So I hope that, as their advisor, they learn to be flexible and learn to vet those problems and think critically about solutions to make changes as necessary.”

Student government hopes the project managers will make a difference for the initiatives. Lesser said, “Student Government’s job is to bring these issues to the attention of the administrator, so if they realize that we think there’s a need for these, maybe they’ll help us make some changes.”

The Projects Committee was created so that Student Government could complete tasks that they were not able to in the past. Scialabba said, “I think it’s hard for the Student Government Executive Board to bear the responsibility for all of their aspects of their positions and also be managing these various projects. There were a lot of good ideas out there and they were looking for some people to make them happen.”

The student government advisors and members also hope that students outside of student government will get involved with these groups. “As the advisor to Student Government, I encourage the student body to get knowledgeable about the projects that the Advocates for Universal Respect and the Projects Committee are working on, and provide input and support,” Maxon said. “I encourage students to offer their guidance, their opinion, and their support in a respectful way because Student Government’s responsibility should be supporting the students here, or representing the students here.”

Lesser said, “The ultimate goals are to have an engaged senate of people who want to be there and who want to educate to make our fellow students aware of some issues that are going on around campus, and we also want to kind of help students gain leadership qualities by throwing them in these projects and connecting them with administrators that will help them in the future.”

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