By Raina Benford and Abby Feenstra
For the past year, we have been fortunate enough to serve as senators for the 82nd session of the Associated Students of the University of Nevada Senate. During this time we were able to work with a diverse group of people that allowed us to see perspectives outside of our own.
The 82nd session had its share of challenges, but despite all of that, we were able to accomplish some pretty amazing things, including: creating of a student email service, establishing gender-neutral restrooms on campus, taking stances on many divisive issues, and creating a special committee to bring the first ever Mountain West Leadership Summit to our campus this summer.
Because our session was forced to overcome many challenges, such as seven censures and multiple resignations, we would like to share some friendly advice with the senators of the 83rd session so that they can represent their constituents to the best of their ability.
REMEMBER THAT ALL OF YOUR MEETINGS ARE RECORDED
Chapter 241 of the Nevada Revised Statutes requires open meetings of public bodies to be recorded for transparency purposes. Every senate meeting and senate committee meeting is recorded by the senate secretaries, and written minutes and audio tape recordings of each meeting are put on the Nevada ASUN website within 30 days of their occurrence.
This means that whatever you say during a senate or senate committee meeting can be accessed by anyone. Anyone. This includes your mother. Or your current supervisor. Or any university official. Or the person in charge of hiring at that really cool internship you’re planning on applying for in the future.
If you are on public record acting in an unprofessional manner, while in a situation where you’re supposed to be representing the students of your college to the best of your ability, that’s just foolish. For the first few meetings, everyone is on their guard and remembers that they’re being recorded, but for whatever reason, there comes a point where everyone seems to forget the existence of NRS 241. Don’t. You don’t want it to come back to bite you.
DON’T GET CENSURED
Hopefully, all senators elected to the 83rd session are aware of the fact that points are given to senators in order to hold them accountable. Points are given for many things, including missing senate office hours and being tardy or absent to senate or senate committee meetings. Upon accumulating a fifth point, the Committee on Oversight can recommend favorably to the senate body the censure of a senator.
When a senator is censured, they must write a public statement of apology to The Nevada Sagebrush. This happened seven times during the 82nd session. We’re not sure why. It’s really not very hard to let the speaker or chairperson of your committee know that you are going to be absent from or tardy to a meeting. Similarly, it is also not hard to complete two weekly office hours. These hours must be logged and forgetting to log them shouldn’t happen.
You may say you did them, and you may have actually done them, but no one will know that unless you log them. Receiving points and becoming censured is something that is easily avoidable as long as you do the fundamentals of your job. The students who elected you are literally paying your salaries, so represent them to the best of your ability and stay accountable.
BE PRESENT AND LISTEN DURING MEETINGS
There’s nothing more annoying than that senator who sits on their laptop the entire meeting watching videos on YouTube. What’s even more annoying is, because that senator cares more about watching movie trailers and checking Facebook during the meeting, they miss out on crucial discussion and often ask questions which were previously asked or make comments that do not pertain to anything that is actually going on in the meeting because they are that unaware.
You do not want to be that senator! Reading legislation prior to a meeting and coming prepared with questions and discussion points makes a much more productive meeting. And believe us when we tell you that four-hour senate meetings are not very fun, so be present and listen during meetings so that you are able to get the most out of it.
NEVER FORGET THAT YOU’RE ELECTED BY THE STUDENTS
Honestly, the majority of our advice can be summed up by one simple fact: you’re not serving as a senator because you personally think you’re the best person for the job. You’re serving as a senator because enough students from your college chose YOU as the person they want to represent them.
The magnitude of this commitment simply cannot be overstated. We are fortunate enough to attend a university with a proven track record of administration listening to what students have to say and acting on student concerns. This isn’t some cutesy little resume booster. This is real. Every piece of legislation you pass and every statement you make on record is a reflection of the students of your academic college. Take this seriously. These students chose you. Don’t let them down.
Raina Benford studies community health sciences and Abby Feenstra studies English literature and women’s studies. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.