By most accounts, student engagement in the Western Senate has increased the past year — 25 candidates stood for four positions to represent undergraduate students-at-large for the upcoming year.
Incoming chair of the Western Student Senators Courtney Hardy hopes to continue the momentum from the past year.
She says the spark of student outreach to the Senate came during the October discussions to discontinue the Media, Theory and Production (MTP) program in FIMS. It was one of the first time that a group of students approached the student senators and asked if they could advocate on their behalf.
"I think after they saw that we were actually on their side and serious about standing up at Senate and speaking for them, it got a lot more students involved and seeing how it actually affects them," Hardy explained.
While the effort to save MTP was ultimately unsuccessful, the student senators saw a number of high-profile issues the past year.
Last February's meeting saw the implementation of a fall Reading Week after years of advocacy from student senators, the USC and other stakeholders.
Hardy knows that seeing these major changes in front of Senate the past year sparked some student interest but she doesn't seen these as the sole reason behind more engagement.
"I think it was lucky for us to have such significant motions and changes coming to Senate but I also think, in addition to that, we really tried to connect to students by posting more on social media, reaching out to them for opinions, reaching out to certain groups based on what would affect them," she observed.
Moving forward for the upcoming 2017-18 school year, the student senators are looking to being start their work earlier than in the past.
They have already hired their volunteers, split into working groups and hope to conduct research over the summer. The working groups — student wellness, early exam schedule release, past/fail courses and database of course syllabi — point to the group's upcoming priorities.
While the student senators will continue to advocate on these issues, they also hope to bolster their presence and work to continue to capture students' attention.
They're currently working on trying to secure a permanent space to work out of and meet with students.
“I really want to see more in-person presence," Hardy said, "I know that [outgoing chair Harry Orbach-Miller] was really pushing last year for some sort of office space so we can have office hours. That’s something that I want to continue because I think it would be so valuable.”
Regardless of whether they get a space or not, Hardy assured that the student senators would continue to seek feedback and opinions from student in the upcoming year.