The Associated Students of Lewis & Clark (ASLC) held their first two Senate meetings via Zoom on Sept. 29 and Oct. 6, after the senatorial elections.
At the Oct. 6 meeting, Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students Robin Holmes-Sullivan spoke to those in attendance. Afterward, the budget was voted on and passed unanimously.
According to ASLC President Mikah Bertelmann ’21, this timeline was unusual. The budget was passed after Student Organizations Coordinator (SOC) Quentin Gaul ’22 was elected in the previous meeting.
“COVID pushed back our timeline for passing a budget due to enrollment concerns last spring,” Bertelmann said. “Typically the Student Organizations Committee will present a budget in April for Senate approval, but we postponed that vote until October. Thankfully, the budget was able to accommodate giving each organization more.”
On April 11 the Senate created a recommended budget allocation for the to-be-elected SOC. ASLC cut 13.5% from the recommended amount for each student organization in light of updated enrollment numbers due to the pandemic. Gaul made any final adjustments before the budget was passed.
Enrollment was less than initially projected before the coronavirus, yet the difference was minimal. For example, LC enrolled 513 out of the projected 526 first-years. Over 100 of these students chose to defer.
“Unfortunately, we had less money than usual to give out because the money that we give out is based on student enrollment,” Gaul said. “Thankfully, it did not (impact the amount) as much as we were worried about. I’m glad that we still have a good amount to give out to students.”
The Senate’s first vote of the semester was the SOC election. Gaul, the interim SOC, ran against Frances Haas ’23, a former ASLC senator. The vote resulted in a tie. Two senators, Jeni Baez ’24 and Olivia Weiss ’23, were not in attendance and voted by email. ASLC Vice President Jeremiah Koshy ’21 broke the tie.
The decision weighed heavily on Koshy who said he thought about it days after.
“I know I have to vote because that’s what my role requires at that point,” Koshy said. “But I would not want to put anyone else into that position because I know both the candidates and I’ve worked with both candidates before.”
Gaul was not expecting the tie, especially considering she thought she would be running unopposed until shortly before the election.
“I didn’t think it was going to be as dramatic,” Gaul said. “But I’m glad that senators and representatives had the chance to have that discussion. It probably would have been good to have even more time to just answer their questions.”
Since the beginning of the school year, Senate has been conducting its business via Zoom. Public Senate meetings, which are open to all undergraduate students, are still digitally accessible. According to Koshy, the new system is more accessible.
“We are on Zoom, and of course that has its own challenges,” Koshy said. “The good side is that we can easily do transcriptions. We have a whole system that allows for transcriptions, which is not only more accessible for people who are under meeting but is available for everyone who is not in the meeting.”
Minutes from meetings are available on the ASLC portion of the LC website. Recordings of some meetings are also available. Bertelmann also sends out recaps of these meetings to the student body.
“My weekly emails that come out each Friday morning outline the highlights of the Senate,” Bertelmann said. “If you aren’t able to make it, this is a great place to start and our website has more detailed minutes.”
Before this year’s Senate meetings, students voted in the election. Twelve students ran to fill 12 spots in the Senate. Voter engagement was historically low.
Bertelmann said the pandemic contributed to this low voter turnout.
“COVID definitely made it challenging to engage with students in voter participation,” Bertelmann said. “Traditionally, our elections committee will actively table during voting week, host a forum with pizza for students to learn about candidates, and often candidates will go around and talk to people.”