After months of planning and preparation, Student Government will switch next semester to a college-based system of representation in which senators are elected proportionally by their college affiliation.
The new system introduces proportional representation in which each of the University of Maine’s five colleges is allocated a certain percentage of the total 35 senate seats based on the colleges enrollment, in addition to 10 at-large seats.
In order from most number of seats to fewest, the new composition of student government will be: eight senators from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS); seven from Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture; five from Engineering; three from Business; and two from Education and Human Development.
Bentley Simpson is a third-year marine sciences student and the current vice president of Student Government. He said the change in representation model could promote innovation and initiative within the organization.
“The hope was to get the senators more involved in their own initiatives, rather than just having the senators just be voting on resolutions and financial allocations,” Simpson said. “Say a senator has an idea [that] it’d be awesome to put a new picnic table in this certain place on campus. Well, as an NSFA senator, I [would] know that someone in the forestry department has forestry skills … and then maybe an engineering senator would know exactly how to structure that.”
Simpson also noted that the new system allows senators to develop stronger personal and institutional relationships with UMaine’s academic colleges.
“It goes both ways where the existing senators are working with the those members of the faculty, but then also the faculty can reach out to students who aren’t as involved and try to get them more involved … so it helps with our advertising as well and it helps with our recruitment,” Simpson said.
“The switched to a [college-based] system is very beneficial for senators because it gives them more of a bridge between [Student Government] and the individual colleges to help enact changes that they feel passionate about,” Matthew Akers, Student Government’s fair elections and practices chairman, said.
Under the current “at-large” system, any undergraduate student from any college with a GPA greater than 2.0 is able to apply to be a senator. There are 35 available positions which go uncontested unless more than that number apply, in which case a general election is held for membership.
Students can join Student Senate at any time during the year. No matter when a senator joins, there is always a rollover for the spring semester, meaning that even those who join during the last weeks of the fall semester must reapply for their position in the spring alongside those who have served a full year-long term.
Applications for senatorial positions beginning in the spring were made available in early December. If more students apply for positions than are available, an election will be triggered on a college-by-college basis. This means that, for example, there could be elections for Business College seats but not for CLAS seats, and so on.
According to Simpson, if elections are called, they will occur at the beginning of the spring semester and be conducted via a Student Government web service that allows for online voting.