By Hannah Posey-Scholl
One of the experiences that characterizes the beginning of fall semester is the speedy election of the Associated Students of Lewis & Clark (ASLC) student Senators for the upcoming year. My first semester at Lewis & Clark was the final time each class was supposed to be represented by three Senators. When this changed last year and allowed anyone in any class year to vote for any candidate, I was relieved. As someone who tries to participate in ASLC and help the school as much as possible, it felt silly to represent only one class year when I was taking classes and interacting with students of all years.
However, this change was also made because there were not enough upperclassmen running to fill their class Senate seats. Two years ago, there were initially two senior candidates and one junior. There were six first-year students running. I did not have access to their candidate statements (because those were only sent to the seniors and juniors who could vote for them), but as far as I remember, none of the people who ran for Senate that year had participated in ASLC before.
Last fall, 12 first-years were candidates for the ten Senate seats available. Alongside three sophomores and two juniors, the first-years easily made up more than two-thirds of the candidates. This was reflected in the election results: after the tie was resolved, six of ten senators were first-years.
That election sparked the discussion about a Senate full of first-years. Some refer to the supposed arrogance and ignorance of first-year students coming in, saying they do not know anything about the school and therefore will not be able to do anything. Others worry why upperclassmen are not running for the positions.
But, you know what? Despite the all of the criticisms, working in the Senate with first-years was fantastic.
This year, eight out of eighteen candidates were first-year students — nearly half of the candidates, but also a significantly smaller percentage than the two-thirds we saw last year. Three of these first-years were elected to this year’s Senate, and I think they will be extremely important to ASLC.
First-years are not jaded by the misconception that ASLC does not accomplish anything. They are excited about the school because it is still all-new to them, and they are ready to do whatever it takes to make the school even better for everyone. Sure, they do not have a full grasp on campus dynamics at that point, but they learn quickly. They also may not know about the past efforts of ASLC, but can easily be brought up to speed.
My favorite part about this situation? First-years have so much time left at LC. One of the things that has concerned me is how few people stick to participating in the Senate — it is common to participate in Senate one year, and in Cabinet thereafter. This is often why so few upperclassmen run for Senate positions. Last year I was the only Senator who had any previous experience with ASLC, and that was only because I sat in on Senate meetings for months as a member of the public when I was a first-year.
This year, we at long last have former Senators who have been elected once again! I am excited to see Senators Nicole Dean ’21, Naylor Finnerty ’19 and Jacob Muscarella ’21 reelected. I have confidence that their experience will allow this Senate to add to the efforts of last year’s in ways that have not been possible before.
As I am writing this from Washington, D.C., I can honestly say that I am grateful for the way ASLC, in my experience, has always been able to work together. I am excited to see what the new Senators and Cabinet focus on this year, and I hope to join them again, somehow, in the Spring. Take it from someone who has participated as both a member of the public and as a representative: ASLC does make a difference, and it is worth it to participate, no matter what class year you are.