Scripps Starts Student Senate

At a school like Claremont McKenna that has a strong, student-run senate, it is hard to imagine what the college would be like without such broad student representation. Yet, until just a few days ago, one of CMC's closest neighbors, Scripps College, existed in precisely that way; student government was run by a relatively small group. However, this system is no longer. The Scripps Associated Students (SAS), the student government on campus, now has a senate.

The SAS Senate, which held its first meeting on October 24, is composed of three representatives from each dorm along with two representatives who live off campus. It was established by the SAS Executive Board to replace the previous system, which limited decision-making largely to the Executive Board and relied on mostly-independent “hall councils” to organize dorm activities. Now, not only do the new Senators sit on the legislative branch of their student government, but they also act as dorm presidents for their halls.

“The system was clearly not working,” said SAS President Emily Jovais SC ’13, the head of the SAS Executive Board that organized the Senate. She noted that the hall councils had little interaction with SAS and that many rarely met or organized activities. Now, Senators are required to organize two events every semester for their dorms in addition to attending monthly Senate meetings and serving on SAS committees.

Besides addressing the issue of inactive hall councils, the new Senate was also established for an arguably more important reason: ensuring students’ voices are heard. “No one knew what was going on in SAS,” continued Jovais. “We didn’t really have a structure that let people have a voice.”

How did the SAS Senate come to be? Although the idea of creating a senate had been brought up in the past, the process of actually creating it largely began this school year. “The brunt of the work and the designing really came from the Executive Board,” said Jovais, although she credited their faculty advisor with pushing them to establish a senate. She also praised the student body as a whole for the input that it gave on the senate bylaws through a survey sent out by the SAS Executive Board. But the ideas behind the SAS Senate did not come entirely from within Scripps.

When the SAS Executive Board was looking at creating a student senate, it looked to Claremont McKenna as an example. “The CMC model was something that we tried to work with a lot,” Jovais stated, adding that she hopes Scripps can “cultivate the same kind of culture you’ve cultivated at CMC.” Several SAS Senate policies, such as a rule that any student who attends three Senate meetings in a row can be sworn in as a Senator, were directly borrowed from the ASCMC Senate. The idea of electing senators from dorms also came from ASCMC, although this part of the ASCMC Constitution is no longer followed.

Despite all that Scripps borrowed from CMC in creating its Senate, the two bodies are as different as the schools they represent. For one, the SAS Senate will meet monthly, whereas the ASCMC Senate meets every week. According to Jovais, this is because, unlike ASCMC, the Scripps student Senate does not deal with line-by-line budgeting, as well as because SAS Senators have committee and dorm commitments. Still, she envisions the Senate as a strong way of representing the wishes of Scripps students not only to the Executive Branch of SAS, but also to the school administration on issues such as alcohol policy and campus construction.

Another difference between the two senates arises from their committees. The SAS Senate has seven committees ranging from a Budget Committee to a Committee on Diversity and Inclusivity to a Holiday Dinner Planning Committee. The ASCMC Senate, on the other hand, has four: Administration and Budget, Academic Affairs, Student Life, and Technology.

Beyond that, Jovais emphasized that, in many ways, the Scripps student government performs a different role than ASCMC does in terms of dorm programming. “CMC can throw huge parties in its living rooms,” she noted. “We can have movie nights and snacks and discussions.”

Naturally, none of the SAS Senate’s committees, rules, or procedures is set in stone. “This year is kind of like the guinea pig,” Jovais said. “At the end of this year we’ll do a reevaluation.”

It is unclear how much influence the ASCMC Senate will have on the SAS Senate (and vice versa) going forward. But for all that is unclear about the future of the new Senate, one thing is certain: the number of students involved in SAS has more than doubled, fundamentally changing how student government gets business done at Scripps.