Sophomore rower Charlie Williams, left, and sophomore baseball player Mike Gibbons sit at a desk after the first Student Senate meeting of the year on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017, in the University Center. Williams and Gibbons belong to the athlete constituency, which was recently created by Student Senate. (Ana Madrigal/B&W Staff)

Lehigh student athletes to be represented in Student Senate XXX

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Student Senate XXX will have an athletics constituency represented for the first time since its inception.

Though there’s never been a formal constituency, there hasn’t been a rule restricting athletes from joining Senate.

Sophomore Charlie Williams, a member of both the men’s rowing team and Senate believes the restriction for athletes was self-imposed.

“Being an athlete is a large time commitment where it’s hard to find a day every other week or for committees, expeditions or meetings,” Williams said. “I really think the restraint was something we put on ourselves.”

Senate meets every other Tuesday for two hours with the goal of “build(ing) a greater Lehigh,” according to the student government’s mission statement.

“I know you’re all here for a reason, and hopefully that reason is to improve Lehigh,” senior Matt Rothberg, Senate President, said to members at a meeting on Sept. 5.

For junior Mike Gibbons, that improvement will come with increased school spirit. Gibbons, a member of the baseball team, joined Senate because he wanted to have a voice at Lehigh. Many athletes represent their teams as a part of the Student Athlete Council (SAC), but that wasn’t enough for Gibbons.

“I struggled with the fact that it was particular to athletes,” he said. “A big thing for me is school spirit, and I think a good way to enhance it is to give athletes a voice outside their own department. If I could propose ideas to the Student Senate rather than just an athletic committee, I feel like that would allow the athletic department to be heard on a school-wide scale.”

Williams believes the beauty of a school like Lehigh is students have the opportunity to be involved in multiple organizations on campus. He wanted to take advantage of that opportunity, and his desire for leadership drew him to join Senate.

“I want to become a leader on campus and in my own life,” he said. “I think this is going to be a good place to start developing that.”

Gibbons and Williams understand both Senate and their teams are large time commitments. Gibbons credits communication with his coach as the main reason he can balance both commitments.

Gibbons and Lehigh baseball coach Sean Leary know that it will be a challenge to balance both. Gibbons said although he may miss a workout or a scrimmage, he’d still be working to improve his team.

“The athletics constituency is working to better the athletic department and our individual teams, so while we might not be at practice, we’re still bettering our teams,” Gibbons said. “It’s just in a different sense. Ultimately, in the long run, that should help our team.”

Williams said rowing coach Brian Conley is supportive of his athletes committing themselves to things outside of rowing.

“He was excited about me taking this opportunity to represent athletics in the senate,” Williams said. “The only requirement (Conley) makes is that we don’t do anything half-assed. You commit yourself to everything you’re committed to and manage your time well.”

At the conclusion of his speech to the senators, Rothberg said, “Senate is about the work you put into it and the passion you have for it.”

Gibbons and Williams share a passion to improve the lives of student athletes and the entire student body. They know, however, that they can’t be the only voices speaking for their fellow athletes.

“I’m happy that we finally broke into the senate,” Gibbons said. “I’m still having trouble with why we’re the least represented constituency. We make up 17 percent of the student body, but there’s only five members on Senate while every other constituency has nine. That’s problematic for me. I’m happy that we have a voice, but I don’t think our work is done yet.”

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