Aislinn Strohecker, ‘18, and Lindsay Wilson, ‘18, signed up for Student Senate at the club fair in 2014.
They joined Lehigh’s student-run governing body because they wanted to make an impact on Lehigh’s campus. At first, they didn’t know what they were getting into. Now, as graduation approaches, they are finishing up their fourth year of service.
Along with Strohecker and Wilson, six other seniors will leave Senate this year.
Matt Rothberg, ’18, the president of Senate, said that while at Lehigh, he and the other seniors worked on larger issues like medical amnesty and made changes with club budgets.
Wilson, the vice president, said the senators chose to pursue the medical amnesty issue because students don’t always feel comfortable calling for help. Rothberg said Pennsylvania policies differ from neighboring states and the policy has remained a “hot topic” on campus.
The senators became heavily involved in pushing for a full, more robust medical amnesty policy in the state of Pennsylvania. Senate teamed up with other student government organizations from universities across the state and drafted policy changes to medical amnesty, which are now at the House level for approval in the Pennsylvania legislative body.
Senate also increased the efficiency of the club funding process.
In the past, Senate had to read the budget for each club individually. Strohecker said the new process involves placing clubs into categories and only reevaluating organizations that use a large portion of funds, like University Productions.
“This made the process of funding clubs so much smoother,” Strohecker said.
Wilson said two Senate has also focused on improving senator relations as well as transparency with the rest of campus.
Juan Shiraishi, ’18, who joined Senate his senior year, said Senate previously had trouble retaining senators and active members for multiple semesters at a time. Wilson said members worked to improve retention rates by strengthening the relationships between senators.
“This year, Senate was much more of a cohesive unit, and we all backed our president and vice president,” Shiraishi said.
During the last meeting of Student Senate XXX and the first of Student Senate XXXI, members stood up from their seats and welcomed newcomers. Wilson was glad to see more members returned to their positions than in previous years.
“I watched other senates be dissolved and new ones formed and it’s usually this mass exodus in the room,” Wilson said, “but it was nice to see more people returning and being committed.”
Strohecker said Senate members hear students’ voices, but students need to be more active in communicating with Senate to solve some of the issues they face.
Senate members have tried to remedy this by inviting students to their meetings and implementing a newsletter.
Although they might be smaller than some of Senate’s other initiatives, Wilson said making changes to campus like painting the chairs on the front lawn brown and white or adding a café to the basement of EWFM library were important to her.
In the future, Rothberg said, there’s a potential to change the Senate make-up and make it representative of class year, college or social organizations.
Rothberg said he is glad to have been one of 50 senators to represent Lehigh’s student body.