Miami University's Associated Student Government (ASG) hopes this semester to improve its internal operations, increase the diversity of the senate body and connect with the general student population.
Eleven seats are currently open, including 10 senate seats and one executive cabinet member position. While some of these seats were vacated by resignations at the end of last semester, many open due to students who are studying abroad or have class conflicts.
Speaker of Senate Cole Hankins said it is normal to have this many open seats at the beginning of a semester.
"[Vacancies at the beginning of the semester] always provide a really nice time to hopefully broaden our reach and bring people from different areas of campus in with different ideas," Hankins said.
Secretary for Diversity and Inclusion Courtney Rose and Off-Campus Senator Monica Venzke have developed a diversity marketing plan to try to increase diversity within ASG. They plan to use flyers, social media campaigns and listserv emails in addition to visiting various student organizations to promote the open seats and encourage students to apply.
"We wanted to ensure that we were reaching all the avenues we possible could to hopefully have the most diverse senate that Miami has ever had," Rose said.
Rose also aims to audit the inclusion plan that was developed last spring to examine diversity within ASG and how it advertises open positions. Rose also wants to develop a campus climate survey to be distributed internally within ASG.
Last semester, ASG experienced internal controversy over how its oversight process is conducted. As a result, ASG voted to form an ad hoc committee for oversight reform, which Venzke chairs.
"With the situation that happened last semester, I think a lot of issues came to light, especially with transparency," Venzke said. "Senators like myself were really unhappy with [the Oversight Committee's] decision, and you're not really supposed to have access to the information that went about why they made that decision, so we don't know what they talked about, who they interviewed, what they discussed."
Venzke and the rest of the ad hoc committee are working to standardize the oversight process and make it more transparent. Venzke said the ad hoc committee is comprised of people on the oversight committee, senators who signed an October petition expressing disagreement with the committee's decision and members who agreed with the way the situation was handled.
Secretary for Communications and Media Relations Michael Zele said he hopes to make ASG more visible through constituent outreach tabling, which is something ASG has done in the past.
"There is a misconception about what Associated Student Government is," Zele said. "Most students may not know what we do or how we operate. I hope to change this by having our members readily accessible to students."
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As a result of a bill passed in December, Secretary for Infrastructure and Sustainability Molly O'Donnell is working to encourage Miami President Greg Crawford to sign the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment and to set a goal date for achieving carbon neutrality.
Student Body President Meaghan Murtagh said she wants to focus on health and wellness this semester. She is working on a campaign to address the negative effects of vaping, which she wants to institute not only at Miami but also at Talawanda Middle and High Schools.
Murtagh said she also plans to address binge drinking, particularly during Greek rush, by working with different organizations to educate students on the effects of overconsumption of alcohol. Similar events have been held in the past, but the rate of binge drinking on campus has not changed measurably.
ASG will hold its first meeting of the semester at 7:30 p.m. tonight in the Joslin Senate Chamber of the Armstrong Student Center. The election packet for vacant seats is currently available on its website, and applications are open until 12 p.m. on Feb. 3. Elections will be held Feb. 5 for all 11 open positions.
Applications are also open for students-at-large to become a part of the funding and audit committee, which reviews organizations' funding requests and helps students navigate the process.