Senate staffing shortages

Student leadership struggling to find candidates

David Armour, Staff Writer

ASSP President Carrie Cox, left, greets university president elect Deana Porterfield, right, during an event organized to announce Dr. Porterfield as the next University President. (Rio Giancarlo)

The Associated Students of Seattle Pacific are the main student governing body of Seattle Pacific University and serve a wide range of purposes, from the management of clubs to the university budget. At the head of the group is the senate, which convenes every week to discuss important issues impacting students on and around campus. Despite its role in the university’s functions, the senate is currently experiencing a severe enrollment shortage that has prevented it from running elections or even hosting an adequate number of senators.

To third year politics, philosophy and economics major, Vice President of ASSP and chair of ASSP senate Rayna Martin, the senate’s staffing issues are making it hard to truly represent the student body.

“Senate is truly the most wonderful leadership experience I’ve had in SPU. It’s taught me many lessons and helped me grow as a person, but the awareness and attendance of the senate has fallen, and we’re still struggling to recover,” Martin said. “You learn how to handle finances, clubs and action items. For example, we had a senator add non-binary options in Canvas and allow students to change their gender pronouns if they so desire. Stuff like this is hard to achieve without greater manpower and will require greater participation.”

As the main representative body of SPU, the senate is intended to monitor student opinion and provide an outlet for student criticism of the university, be it on finances or the board of director’s decisions. Though they lack final say in either of these aspects, they serve as a check on the power of the other positions and try to provide a student-sided voice on whatever issues come up.

Third year mechanical engineering and physics double major and ASSP president, Carrie Cox, views the senate as an important instrument to represent the will of the students.

“Senate is the main forum for students to speak out to the university and faculty. It concentrates the student voice and exists to provide constructive feedback for SPU so it can better provide for its students,” Cox said. “We discuss proposals, which go on into action items that departments implement. We also work with clubs, approving their events and supporting them with the planning process and financially.”

Despite its prominent role in the university’s governance, the number of senators has been declining for years. The current group is operating on a skeletal structure, unable to hold elections because there are not enough applicants to fill all available openings.

“Senate for the past several years has seen a decline in involvement, mostly because the pre-COVID generation is graduating. It’s become harder to generate interests in organizations, both here and beyond SPU,” Cox said. “This is important because we’re seeing decreasing representation. It’s important to hear from diverse varieties of students from different backgrounds and perspectives to ensure that all views are being represented accurately and fairly. We’re trying to up our game on advertising and will be holding an event in Gwinn to inform students on the election and how to apply.”

As it stands, the ASSP senate is in need of new candidates, and is already dealing with severe staffing shortages. Although it controls several key functions of the university governance, a general lack of interest among new students makes it difficult to ensure that the student-run organization represents the interests of those they try to serve. An understaffed senate will have issues with organization and maintenance, which may have a large impact on how the university operates in coming years.

Students looking to join senate can apply though the ASSP website. Students who wish to talk with a senator can also stop by the ASSP office in the Student Union Building to receive more information about senate and how it runs.