Commitment to progress: Senate Committees promise meaningful innovation across campus

By: Justin Smith

Assistant News Editor

The Undergraduate Student Administration has long suffered from a divisive gap between presentation and action. Yet this year, with USA Executive Vice President Elias “Fenoose” Ayoub at the helm of committees, campus life may see Senate chart a new course. Anyone who has been to a Senate meeting knows they are places of great formality, but committees can theoretically function with more efficiency by doing away with the strict rules and simply focusing on action.  Therefore, while Senate debates the big issues, committees are meant to serve as agents of change within the school.

“There hasn’t been enough oversight on the committees [in the past] to make sure that they get their work done, so that’s what’s different this year,” said Ayoub.

That was one of the messages Ayoub stressed when he sat down to talk to The Griffin about the this year’s Senate. The Senate will, as per usual, retain their Diversity and Justice Boards, chaired by Paula Uruburok and Alexis Grebenok respectively. As for committees, as of now there will be four, including Dining Services chaired by Hannah Flynn, Student Services formerly chaired by Darby Ratliff (the seat is currently in need of a replacement given Ratliff’s recent selection as Vice President of Student Organizations), Public Health chaired by Dilpreet Kaur, and Sustainability co-chaired by Clayton Shanahan and Meghan Zickl.

“If all we do as an organization is get our committee goals done, we’ve done a lot,” said Ayoub, echoing his words from the semester’s first Senate meeting.

Ayoub described committees as the Senate’s “functional arms” and laid out detailed plans for what he hopes each will accomplish.

Student Services Committee, which Ayoub described as the “most ambitious,” has some goals which they hope to accomplish within the upcoming couple of weeks. These goals include a leasing service to connect landlords to students. The plan would also involve lawyers who would be able to ensure that the terms of contracts were equitable and the houses were of good quality. Another short-term goal of the committee is to establish a service that would “provide advice” to kids who get into legal trouble and “don’t know where to turn.”

In the long term, Ayoub said they are “seriously looking into” an alcohol amnesty program so that students don’t have to worry “about getting in trouble if their friend’s sick from drinking.” The committee also hopes to set up a phone line so that students can call in for help at any time, day or night.

Sustainability Committee concerns itself with making the college environmentally conscious and fully modern. In order to accomplish this, the committee plans to get the dining hall to compost all food waste, create a bike sharing program, install rain barrels and solar panels, reduce Styrofoam, incentivize reusable containers, plant a garden in the quad, and, perhaps most excitingly, create a can return system on campus that would be linked to Griff Bucks so students could get money on their cards for returning recyclables. The committee also wants to rewrite the college recycling policy—so that recycling bins actually get recycled—and has loose plans for bringing a farmer’s market on campus.

“As of right now sustainability is of low importance across campus and our [goal] is to change that among students, faculty, and administration alike,” said Shanahan and Zickl in a joint e-mail to The Griffin.

Dining Services will concern itself mainly with Chartwells. Ayoub stressed that not only is campus food “not great,” but Chartwells has other issues as well. Ayoub says he wants to “Tear down the wall … between Chartwells and students,” make Chartwells more transparent in its food options, get Chartwells to offer more dining options with voluntary or involuntary food restrictions, and lobby for healthier options.

“I hate to speak badly of past Senates, especially because I was part of them,” said Ayoub, “but I think we missed it. We missed a huge opportunity last year when we were renegotiating Chartwells contract.”

Committee chair Flynn said, “It frustrates me that Canisius students are subjected to dining services that, to put it bluntly, that they hate. Being a Resident Assistant this year, I’ve had multiple students come to me about feeling ill, that their dietary restrictions are being ignored, and that their dietary needs were not being met.”

The committee hopes to return to more frequent meeting with Chartwells, such as the Senate has done in the past.

Public Health has its emphasis on both physical and mental health. Ayoub said that although the College did sexual assault awareness last year, it’s important to do it again. The committee also hopes to improve the Health Center.

“There is a bevy of complaints on how they’re inefficient and ineffective,” said Ayoub.

As for mental health, the committee wants to work more closely with the Counseling Center and address issues such as anxiety and depression. The committee also wants to look into free CPR training for students and getting more AEDs on campus.

“The Public Health Committee hopes to deliver proper health related education and aims to further advance health services available to students and the larger society we reside amongst,” said committee chair Kaur.

Diversity Board will focus on events and campaigns around campus. Such events include Hispanic Heritage month, and the “I am a culture, not a costume” event in the spirit of dispelling racial and ethnic stereotypes in Halloween costumes. Next semester, the committee will shift its focus to issues of sexuality and gender identity.

Justice Board’s main focus this year is fair trade. They want to ensure that everything in the school follows fair trade guidelines.

“[Fair trade means] everyone at every level of production of a good or service that we use is being treated equitably,” said Ayoub.

Ayoub was quite confident in Senate’s ability to get things done this year.

“Seventy-five percent of that stuff can be actuality by the end of this year and everything … will at least have been started,” said Ayoub.

Although the many moving parts of the school means success can’t be universally guaranteed, but for the 25 percent of things left unfinished, Ayoub promised follow-ups on these issues.

Of course there is always a question of if Senate can actually accomplish what it sets out to, but this year the question becomes how the changes in Senate will impact their efficiency.  Committees this year are “more organic” than before, forming when problems arise and closing when the problems are solved. Ayoub, as EVP, wants more oversight, less talk, and more action.

“We’re going to take a harder look at what it takes to be an effective committee,” said Ayoub.

Only time will tell if these changes to the structure of Senate will translate to new results, but Ayoub emphasized that Senate meetings, the USA office, and individual Senators are open and transparent to all students in the school.

EVP Ayoub has reset the standard of expectations by which this administration will be judged. Impact is crucial and without it, Senate loses its value to both students and the community as a whole. Each committee has a set list of goals, of which all should be completed by the end of the academic year. Each committee has rolled out outlines for, what could shape up to be, a very consequential year; with the fruits of their labor benefiting future generations.

As the pandemic of sexual assault is drug into the light on campuses all across the United States, who else should be leading the charge here at home than those appointed to organize and lead the student body. Dietary issues can only be resolved by better relations between students and Chartwells. Solar panels, composting food waste, and recreating the college-wide recycling policy are no small tasks and could easily fall by the wayside if not given their due attention.

This is not a paperback issue with a cliffhanger ending “till next week.” Thus far, political scandal has already been averted and this USA administration has shown itself to be efficient in solving pertinent dilemmas. This is a recognition of the responsibility and importance of our student representatives, acknowledging them for their hard work and keeping them accountable as the academic year marches on.

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