New SA legislative session begins late due to lack of senators

Petitioned senators are sworn in with one hand on the SA constitution to initiate the 50th legislative session, which was delayed this semester.  (David Armelino | The Oswegonian)
Petitioned senators are sworn in with one hand on the SA constitution to initiate the 50th legislative session, which was delayed this semester. (David Armelino | The Oswegonian)

The Oswego State Student Association finally held its first senate meeting this past Tuesday.  The 50th Legislative Session of SA was forced to delay its start last week due to its lack of petitioned senators making the SA unable to reach its minimum quorum of 12 representatives per the SA Constitution.

“From a historical standpoint, senate has started much later in the past,” said SA President Tucker Sholtes, a senior business administration and public relations major.. “In fact, it is not unusual that senate will not have its first meeting until October. We had planned to start senate on Sept. 9. Unfortunately, we had not received enough petitions to reach the senate quorum of 12 at that point. It usually takes a few weeks for senators to get all of their petition signatures turned in and verified.”

In order for students to assume the office of senator, they must get petition forms and gather signatures in their favor. The names are then verified. Students who wish to become a senator who represents a specific residence hall must receive 50 signatures from students residing in that residence hall. For those who want to be at-large senators, representative, of the Oswego State campus as a whole, they must receive 100 signatures from any Oswego State student. This process is outlined by the SA Constitution.

Although the first senate meeting was called to order a week later than anticipated, Sholtes expressed little doubt in how this year’s legislative session will run.

“For where we are in the semester, we are in a very good place in comparison to past years. In recent years, we have been lucky to have 12-15 senators by the end of the year,” Sholtes said. “To say that we started our first meeting of the semester at the 12-15 senator point is a huge win for the Student Association and shows that we are making progress toward having a more involved student government SUNY Oswego.”

Vice President Neely Laufer, a sophomore political science major expressed similar feelings in regards to this year’s senate.

“Well we actually have 15 senators right now, so I’m pretty hopeful for this year and its success, and a lot of the Senate is returning so we have a lot of experience throughout senate,” Laufer said.

Sen. Shantol Williams, a junior creative writing and public relations major, was elected chair of the Involvement Committee on Tuesday evening. She also has positive hopes with little concern for the low amount of senators currently within the Student Association.  “The current membership of senators in senate isn’t a cause for concern because I know that at the beginning of the year (at least the past few years) our membership’s numbers are usually on the low side and as the year progresses and people learn more about SA, they gravitate toward becoming senators,” Williams said.

The delay of the first legislative meeting actually worked out for the better, according to the president.

“By not having our first senate meeting last week, the SA directors and I have been able to focus on other areas and initiatives such as treasurer training and diversity and inclusion training,” Sholtes said. “We are happy to announce that this past Saturday, Sept. 13, over 70 percent of the funded organization’s presidents and treasurers attended treasurer training as well as the first diversity and inclusion training. The holding of this training is a huge step forward for the Student Association and SUNY Oswego in general. It is the first of many events and initiatives that we are focused on holding within the area of diversity and inclusion.”

SA as a whole, is making avid attempts to expand its reach and get more students involved with student government. Becoming a senator allows a student a direct say in the bills debated, amendments to the constitution and the budget process for funded organizations. As of Sept. 17, there were 15 petitioned senators and all SA members agree there is room for plenty more.

“I would like to grow the Senate number to between 20 and 30, but considering that the semester just started, we have a lot of time to reach this goal,” Sholtes said.

A problem the SA often faces is the lack of knowledge Oswego State students have about the organization.  Many know the association is responsible for the budget process and see the organization as a bank. Many Oswego State students have no idea where their $97 SA Fee goes.

“It doesn’t surprise me as much when people don’t know what SA is because I know that when I first came to campus I was confused on what senate was and how they operated and I didn’t understand until I actually sat down at a Senate meeting and got to see it for myself,” Williams said. “So, I would encourage people to come sit in on a senate meeting to experience it.”

Being the chair of involvement, Williams alongside President Sholtes, Vice President Laufer, the directors and senators are making big plans for some big attempts at educating the Oswego State campus community. Many of these plans began over the summer with orientation sessions.

“We tabled heavily throughout the summer at all of the orientations in an effort to raise both freshman and transfer student interest in serving as a senator,” Sholtes stated. “Additionally, posters have been made to advertise the position of senator to students.”

“I also plan on doing a lot of the same things they’ve done in past years. Tabling, and social media updates, word of mouth, making announcements about SA in club general meetings,” Williams said.

Any student can petition to join the Oswego State Student Association senate at any time. Petitions can be picked up in the Point, at 131 Marano Campus Center. At-large seats are always open along with several residence hall seats which still have not been filled.

“We also are looking into an aggressive plan to target residence halls that do not already have representation in senate,” President Sholte said. “We feel as though it is important that all halls, and off campus students, have equal representation in the Student Association.”

Senate meetings take place every Tuesday evening in Lanigan 102 at 6 p.m. These meetings are always open for public comment. Guest speakers are always welcome as well. Clubs and organizations are highly encouraged to reach out to Vice President Laufer, president of the senate, in order to be added to the agenda for the week. Once added to the agenda, clubs and organizations are welcome to make presentations in front of the senate about the issues they have and information they might want to share.

SA stresses that “a campus is nothing without the voice of its students.”