The ASW Senate has faced a delay filling its seats for the 2020 academic year. More than a month into the semester, only half of the Senate seats are filled — leaving seven vacant.
Like so many other things, the main reason for the slowdown is because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to senators.
Tristan Palmer, ASW senator of the school of arts and sciences, said the pandemic hurt interest in student government positions.
“When students aren’t on campus and aren’t directly interacting with the school, their student body officers aren’t in the forefront of their minds,” Palmer said.
Because of that, ASW has experienced a delay in filling the student board, unable to elect a speaker of the senate until all seats are filled.
“As of now we currently have five senators and will soon have the two first-year positions filled,” Palmer said. “That will leave seven vacancies that need to be filled.”
Those seven vacancies include one senior class senator, two junior class senators, one sophomore class senator, one non-traditional senator, one education senator and one nursing senator.
The Senate filled two of its empty seats Sept. 29, electing Gus Edwards and Mikey O’Hearn after its first-year election.
Typically, ASW appoints a full Senate at the end of the Spring semester — directly following the student election. There, elected senators appoint a speaker to the ASW student board.
However, Chief Justice Chris Ooley said the pandemic cut everything short.
“Usually there’s one more meeting at the end of the year that we didn’t get to have last year,” Ooley said. “Since COVID-19 cut everything a little bit short there, we didn’t have a chance to get a full Senate.”
Ooley said that in the past when they didn’t have enough senators, it was common to have any Westminster student attend the final Senate meeting to run for a seat. After presenting their case, previous senators vote on whether to elect them.
Because the Senate was unable to have that last meeting, this didn’t happen.
In general, Ooley said the Senate is one of the more overlooked parts of ASW. But he hopes this year, senators can bring more awareness around who they are and what they do.
“I think eventually the goal is to make sure everyone knows what the Senate even is in the first place, and then just kind of pick that pace up,” Ooley said.
Although students are familiar with ASW in general, Ooley said they often don’t realize everything it entails — especially within the Senate.
Despite this, Ooley said the Senate is one of the most important and accessible parts of student government. The Senate serves as the policy-making body of ASW and functions as the legislature.
Senators regularly pass legislation during its monthly meetings, supporting student interests and addressing their concerns.
Ooley said he encourages students to get involved with those meetings, which are open for anyone to attend.
“Every meeting is fully open to the public,” Ooley said. “Students can come to any meeting and express any opinion that they have, really.”