Student Senate voted unanimously to expand from 50 members to 55 members in its April 4 meeting.
Currently, Senate has nine members in each constituency and five members on the Executive Board. This expansion will account for the addition of five student athletes.
“Athletes are a significant portion of this school, so we think they deserve constituency representation on Student Senate,” Senate parliamentarian Alana Hill, ’19, said.
While passing an athlete constituency bill was unanimous, how to include athletes in the representation of Senate was the topic of debate Tuesday afternoon at its bi-weekly meeting.
Two bills were proposed, both of which would account for the addition of a student-athlete constituency. The bills differed on how to have Lehigh’s student athletes represented in Senate.
The first bill proposed adding student athletes to Senate without changing the number of students in Senate, which would remain at 50. This would result in each constituency losing one of its nine members to account for the addition of the new athlete constituency.
The second bill proposed the addition of five students to Senate— adding another constituency and not removing positions from the current constituencies.
Senate president Dakota DiMattio, ’17, was in favor of keeping the number of students at 50. However, the president and four other members of the executive board do not have voting rights.
DiMattio voiced her opinion, however.
“I am really for 50 from the perspective we just added 15 honorary senator positions,” DiMattio said. “They are going to be doing things and adding things to committees. It’s really hard to manage 50 people. We just added another 15, and then with the athletes constituency another five.”
Kiana Nieves, ’19, voiced her support for increasing the number of students in Senate to 55 and the inclusion of student athletes.
“I feel like student athletes are very underrepresented, so making this constituency and working around them is better than not having them at all because I think their opinions matter as well,” Nieves said.
The athletes on Senate will be held to the same standard as any other senator.
Attendance is expected at meetings, and they will be held to the same accountability and attendance standards. The athlete constituency will allow athletes to run for half-year terms. They are expected to run during their off season to be able to attend Senate meetings. Since the dates for all Senate meetings are set before the start of the semester, athlete senators will be expected to report these dates to their coaches to prevent scheduling conflicts.
“After talking to Student Athlete Council, we learned there’s a lot of athletes that wanted to be on Student Senate but haven’t been able to because of commitments during their season,” Zach Vinik, ’20, said. “We feel that this will now give them the opportunity to have as many of them represented in Senate as possible.”
There are two student athletes on Senate, Harrison Kauffman, ’19, and Grace Lin, ’19. Kauffman is a member of Lehigh’s football team, and Lin plays on Lehigh’s women’s tennis team.
Vinik said Senate is hoping to increase integration with the Student Athlete Council and student athletes in general. Senate sponsored an event with student athletes at the Pride Game and are hoping to continue the athlete representation at Lehigh.
“We are working with the student athletes to have a more joint Lehigh community,” Vinik said.