Campus News

Student council’s 2016 year off to a complex start

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Bethel’s student council, or StuCo, is a complex organization. There are many moving parts and with elections recently finishing up, a lot of those parts are being replaced as well. To get an idea of what exactly is going on with StuCo, The Bethel Beacon has talked to some of the major players in the organization about some of the major issues. And who better to start with than the executive student council president himself,  Benji Andrews? We first asked Andrews about how this year’s voter totals compared with years past. “Compared to other years, average,” said Andrews.  “However, considering there’s about 900 eligible voters, we’d like those numbers to be a bit higher.” Andrews also gave us the rundown on exactly what the qualifications are for those who choose to run for student council. These include having 2.5 GPA and having good standing with student development. However, the most debated expectation amongst these stated requirements, as of late, is a rather unstated one: being able to serve a full year’s term. Diana Diaz-Diurych, who was named upperclassmen President, has recently received criticism as she will be leaving Bethel College after the fall semester of this year and will not be able to finish the entire year as President. “Diana ran, publicly telling us that she was only going to be here for the first semester,” said Andrews of the situation.  “In our bylaws there’s nothing that speaks against the president leaving.  Ours states that they are expected to stay on campus.  There’s nothing saying that they can’t run if they’re only there for a semester.” We talked to Diaz-Diurych about her response to the rather unusual situation. “I am not going to be here both semesters, just first semester," said Diaz-Diurych, "Now, there are bylaws for student council, and I double checked before-hand, and triple-checked and it wasn’t anywhere in the bylaws that you have to be here both semesters. Keeping in mind that that would probably be an issue among some people, but also keeping in mind that the big issue for a lot of people would be the senior gift and senior event as a part of the senior class. Those things still matter to me because that’s a part of my class leaving a piece of themselves here at Bethel, and so it’s important to me to be something good and something valuable,” she stated. Moving on to the plans for the year, Andrews did say he has big goals for the group this year. “The biggest goal I have for us is to be more relevant on campus,” said Andrews.  “A lot of people don’t even know who we are and what we do.” Andrews said that the council’s first big move to becoming more relevant is coming in the near future. “We have a big social media push that we are going to unveiling soon,” said Andrews. Andrews said that the ideas are still in the works, but he sees the big picture leading to the use of popular outlets such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and maybe Snapchat. “It’s all about ways to get the student body connected more through social media,” said Andrews.  “We want to replace Facebook as being a form of a ‘free advertisement board’ and turn it into a place where students can interact with one another.  We’ll post articles, pictures and different things that students are interested in, relevant and build community here at Bethel.” Andrews believes that the social media idea will be a sort-of long-term goal for the year, but that’s not to replace the different moves that he is pushing for right now. “One of the big things that I’m looking into right now is the grab-and-go lunches in the [Dining Commons],” said Andrews.  “We assumed that we were going to be getting the grab-and-go station in the DC for breakfast through lunch, but for those who have classes and stuff, it closes down when the DC is done serving meals at meal times.  I have talked with the DC and am talking to Shawn next week, so we’re currently working on getting that setup.” We also talked with Diaz-Diurych about her campaign and her plans for this year. Diaz-Diurych is a senior at Bethel who has been here her entire college career. Some of her activities aside from StuCo include sports and various campus committees. “I used to be on the women’s soccer team," stated Diaz-Diurych, "I’m also a part of Campus Activities, I do StuCo, I did some volunteering at the Logan Center with one of my classes and continue to do that." I asked Diaz-Diurych how she came to the decision to run for upper class StuCo president. “I kind of decided on a whim, and I wanted to make sure that I was running with someone who kind of had the same mindset as me," she said. "I asked my friend Justin [Brown] if he would run with me, he’s actually the [vice president]. So we kind of decided just a few days before the election, kind of pieced it together, got some flyers out, went around chatted with people." Diaz-Diurych said that she wanted to be involved in Bethel since she’s given up one of her other on campus departments. “Since I am not playing soccer this year, I kind of wanted to be more involved in another aspect and so this is how I found that,” she added. I asked Diaz-Diurych exactly what her role would entail for the remainder of the year. “The biggest piece of the role as upper-class student council president is to come up with the senior gift and work alongside president Chenoweth and Kelly [Courington] and a few other people in creating that gift,” she said. She then added, “The overarching role would kind of be the bridge between faculty, staff and students and kind of be the voice for both sides." During the election, there was a rumor that since Diaz-Diurych is only here for the fall semester, the bylaws would not allow her to run. She cleared that up for me.  As Diaz-Diuych will be graduating early, we discussed what will happen with her role when she is gone. “When I leave after this semester, it’s still Justin as VP, Andrea [Taylor] is upper class at large and Josh [Maurer] is treasurer," she said. "Benji can appoint someone, and they can vote on it or they have the option of picking someone and student council can vote on that person. That person does not have to be someone that was previously involved with student council." But with every campaign, there is another side, and StuCo elections are no different. Junior theatre arts major Alex Price ventured outside the theatre this fall, running for upperclassman president with Brock Jordan as his vice president. Price is involved in other areas on campus besides theatre and student council; he is also the president of The Company, a student club for all those interested in theatre. I talked to Price about why he originally considered running in the first place. “My first decision to run was just the opportunity to serve the Bethel College student body,” he said. “I think that it’s incredibly important to have a good student government on campus. I think people kind of forget how important they really are. They really do serve a huge purpose on campus, so being able to serve in that capacity was something that I really wanted to do. It’s still something I would like to do, I would eventually like to be on student council hopefully next year.” Price ran against Diaz-Diurych for the position. I asked Price how he was running his campaign in a college environment. “It was challenging trying to reach everybody [we] needed to reach on campus,” he said. “My main outlet was social media. Today I feel like social media is a huge advantage running a campaign because it’s basically free advertisement.” But the thing about campaigns is they are inherently unpredictable. All a candidate can do is estimate his or her chances. I asked Price how he judged his chances to win the election while he was in the process. “I thought we were pretty well matched,” said Price. “I thought that our campaign was a little bit stronger with getting the word out.” Price said that his campaign relied heavily on social media, with daily posting on Facebook and trying to spread the word of his campaign. But, as is usual with political campaigns, not even the best efforts can guarantee a victory. Despite his social media campaign and flyers around campus, Price lost the election to Diaz-Diurych and her running mate Justin Brown. When asked about how he felt about his competition, Price said that he feels that Diaz-Diurych is well qualified for the position. “She’s a senior, and she was very qualified for the position as well,” he said. “So it was a tight race, and I think she was very well deserving of getting upperclassmen president.” The one thing about Diaz-Diurych’s presidency is, as mentioned earlier, the fact that she’s only here for the fall semester. I talked with Price about his feelings about the current situation. “It kind of created for a sticky situation that could have easily been avoided,” he said. According to Price, there is word-of-mouth that a candidate was turned down last year because they were not able to serve the full term, but there is no physical record of this. I asked Price what his response to the appointment of Diaz-Diurych despite her half term limitation was. “I went to the first full student council meeting with everybody there before they approved the election results,” he said. “I decided just to talk to them about why I thought it was, like I said, basically a sticky situation in the fact that this person was allowed to run who would been having had the same responsibilities as me if I would have won, serving for the whole term, and this person only serving for half the term.” Price also mentioned the significant change in leadership that will have to happen next semester as another consequence of the decision to allow Diaz-Diurych to run. “So I went and talked to student council basically and just gave them these options, these ideas, saying, you know, this might not be right, you might need to re-look at this before you move on at the end of the year,” he said. But Price said that since the bylaws or constitution say nothing about this issue, Student Council had no real choice in allowing Diaz-Diurych to run and approve her win. Price said he strongly encouraged Student Council to change those bylaws because he feels that they could cause major issues for the Council down the line if they are not addressed. “Change in leadership is hard,” he added. “For upperclass, what their main goals throughout the year are the senior gift and the senior event, and she’ll be here for two to three months planning, and all of a sudden she’ll have to leave, and they’ll have to bring someone brand new into the board who knows nothing about what they’ve been doing and their progress for three to four months. So it just creates some hectic times in student council.” As for that change in leadership, Price said that as far as he knows, the bylaws require the board to appoint a new president rather than allowing the vice president to take over like in the federal government. The board will meet and discuss potential candidates to appoint. But all in all, Price says he is happy for those on the board. “I think they’ll have a good year,” he said. “Like I said, as long as student council does something to change [this half-term situation] for the future, I think is the best thing. If I had a little bit of a difference on that situation, I feel satisfied with it.” And that difference may be coming. Andrews addressed the half-term situation by stating that the bylaws of the Bethel College student council constitution are currently being re-worded and changed. “We are changing [the bylaws] so that you have to be there for the entire year,” stated Andrews, “We’re still using the bylaws from back in 2009, so some of the wording needs to be redone.” Andrews said that this will be taken care of soon in order to prevent any future concerns. “These changes should be ready for the next elections,” said Andrews.  “Sometime in the next month we are going to have [new bylaws] approved by the full council and present them to [Shawn Holtgren] to sign them off.” Dave Schmidt, associate professor of history, has been very involved with StuCo in the past, as many students are aware of. He corroborated Andrew’s information about potential bylaw changes and added that he feels sorry for anyone who has been discouraged from running. So there you have it: a crash course in Bethel’s StuCo goings-on this semester. Make sure you’re keeping an eye out for any more changes headed your way this year. The Bethel Beacon will keep you posted.

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