Perceptions on Student Senate influence, power depends on perspective


Student Senate gathers for their weekly meeting on Tuesday nights at 9:30pm

Executive President Tiffany Sims sees the power of the Student Senate at Ashland University stemming from its constituents.

“At the very basic level, we have power and being able to express our voice, and we are trying to do our best to represent thousands of students on campus who are paying customers of this university, and so that in and of itself, I think that does have power,” said Sims.

Sims currently serves as the president for the 2022-2023 academic year.

She originally ran for the president of the Student Senate because she has loved her experience here at Ashland University.

“This campus is such a special place, and I think that being in a position of leadership allows you to help,” said Sims. “My goal was to just help other students in whatever I could [to] have that same great experience I had.”

While Sims sees the power of the Student Senate coming from its constituents, perceptions on the effectiveness of the Student Senate vary among current and past senate members. There’s also varying opinions on how well it connects with the student body.

Sims also believes that the Student Senate’s influence comes through “significant collaboration.”

Sims pointed to the reversal of the decision to cancel winter commencement and the uncancelling of the Symphonic Band trip as examples of how the student senate had a voice in those decisions.

Administration/faculty perspectives

Part of this collaboration effort also involves working with the administration.

AU President Dr. Carlos Campo said the senate plays a key role and that the administration takes the Student Senate seriously.

“Obviously, if we take them seriously, we do take their suggestions,” said Campo.

Campo added that the Student Senate has a “direct line” to him and the Board of Trustees because some of the senate members have positions on board committees.

He also mentioned that the Student Senate has been invited to some of the Town Hall meetings like the Town Hall that took place at the beginning of the spring semester.

“We’re here for students and the reason [AU] exists,” said Campo.

Campo elaborated on the many examples from the past five years of hearing the Student Senate, and addressing the issues around campus.

A few of the examples are as follows:
Dorm refreshes
Improved WiFi access
Upgraded lighting around campus

Dr. Rosaire Ifedi, president of the Faculty Senate, believes that the power of the Student Senate lies in how the Student Senate views something.

“The power of it should lie in the fact that when the Student Senate … says this how we see something and they take it to the president of the administration… they should be heard.” said Ifedi.

Dr. Greg McBrayer, VP of Faculty Senate has a different perspective of power in the Student Senate, and views it more as influence.

“They have influence not just with faculty, but with the administration, with the Board of Trustees [and] with alumni,” said McBrayer.

The senators within the Student Senate have different views on how much power or influence the senate has.

Inside Perspectives

Sophomore Heath Johnston, executive officer of student affairs, said the power of the Student Senate depends on who was in the senate at a particular time.

“Depending on the people who are in Student Senate because it’s really up to the student senators to pursue these goals outside of the actual meetings because if you want something to get done you have to go out of your way and put your own time and commitment into it,” said Johnston.

He said current senators are “going the extra mile” that tasks are getting accomplished and working to connect with the student body.

Sophomore Zach Scher, executive officer of finance and facilities, views power as relative.

“It might take a few times but people listen to us. We have great relationships with the administration and faculty, professional relationships and everybody’s working to make the university a little bit better.”

Junior Kenna Cline, executive officer of academic affairs, doesn’t see it as a Student Senate power issue.

Cline views it as a “degree of privilege” because the Student Senate has direct communication with the administration.

She also pointed out the misconception that the Student Senate does not have power.

“I think there is this misconception that Student Senate doesn’t have power because, like, if we pass something, but it doesn’t get done, then like it must mean that nobody listens to us,” said Cline. “Administration really does look to us to be connected with the student body, but it’s more like Student Senate, itself, needs to keep pushing them.”

A national perspective

Butch Oxendine, the founder of the American Student Government Association, says if the administration does not take student governments seriously, they are seen as “childish.”

Oxendine pointed to the example of setting rules for children, like the age a child can get a driver’s license and has to prove themselves before having the responsibility of the license.

“Administrators are gonna limit [the student government] influence and ability to do things until they prove they’re up to the task,” Oxendine said.

Oxendine has worked with multiple student government organizations across the country and the number one problem he usually sees with student government is connecting with the student body.

“[Student Senates] often don’t know that they rely on their instincts,” said Oxendine.

Oxendine explained that the instinct was when student governments started to rely on “word of mouth” from a handful of students rather than gaining hard-factual data surveying the student population on their needs and wants.

“Your peers in student government, they think they know more about what the students want than they really do,” said Oxendine. “They are trusting their instincts, which can lie to them, and nothing is better than hard facts if you can have.”

One example of where the AU Student Senate succeeded at this was with the Eagle Experience voucher with former Sophomore Class President Skylar Phillians sending out a survey to the entire sophomore class.

The Eagle Experience voucher was a proposal for all traditional undergraduate students to pay a fee of 036;250 per semester to help fund different student experiences.

After seeing the overwhelming negative response from the student body, the administration decided to not move forward with the Eagle Experience voucher.

Perceptions on communications

The Student Senate currently communicates information with the student body via email from the class representatives, minutes posted on the student senate website, social media links and through different events on campus Johnston said.

However, when The Collegian went out and interviewed random students across campus, a pattern emerged. Most students did not know who their class representatives were and unaware of any information communicated to them from the student senate or their representatives.

Senior Class President Mark Blitz was the one exception that was mentioned by students.

Blitz said he noticed that last year’s junior class president sent out monthly newsletters,, but it began to fizzle out towards the end of the year.

Blitz decided if he became senior class president, he would consistently send out newsletters monthly.

“So every single month, I send out a monthly newsletter just stating… what I hear on senate, different campus happenings, and I try to keep it light and funny,” said Blitz. “So that way it keeps the students intrigued.”

Blitz also puts a photo of himself attached to the email as a way for seniors to identify him and memes to entertain a bit in his emails.

Whether one agrees the AU Student Senate seems to have power or influence or either, depends on the view of the senate as a whole. Sims mentioned one point that seems to be a common thread when viewed by anyone.
“I’ve heard this kind of attitude from students of, like, well, the Student Senate does not have any real power,” said Sims. “I think it comes down to how you use your power.”