Senator Handbook

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Introduction

Purpose of Senate

Senate's primary goal is to increase and facilitate communication between the student body and the university administration. We do this by listening to student concerns on both an individual and corperate basis, receiving input, opinions, and explanations from the administration, and ensuring both parties receive the other's message.

Representing Your People

Your constituents are counting on you to accurately take their opinion on issues up the chain of command, explain controversial issues from administration's point of view, and be a leader on your floor. Take time out of your schedule to get to know your floor and bring up Senate issues. This grassroots communication is the best tool we have for learning how the student body feels. Talk to your RA about how you can be included in floor leadership, at least to an extent. A little bit like an RA, you're always "on duty." Be ready and willing to discuss issue if they arise.

Giving Back to the Students

Senate is entrusted with funds taken from the General Fee paid by every full-time student. A large percentage of this money goes to improving the quality of student life by providing additional events, projects, and club funding that may not otherwise occur. Additionally, Senate uses its large volunteer power to assist with running other organizations events, help out with Orientation, and do community service.

Being a Leader

As a senator, you are a leader on campus. You are automatically held to a higher standard than the rest of the students. Make every effort to be an example in all you do. Walk in integrity. Be there for people who have no one. Earn respect by setting an example, not by demanding it. Remember that you specifically represent the entire organization of Senate, and the school as a whole.


Becoming a Senator

Requirements

  • Be enrolled in at least 9 credit hours
  • Live in the district you represent
  • Good standing with the school (no disciplinary probations)

Duties

  • Attend Session once a week
  • Be on a committee for your first year
  • Attend training with the Vice President
  • Dedicated to improving communication between the students and the administration

Election

Becoming a Senator


Weekly General Assembly

We meet every week together in a General Assembly to formally address any business we might have (legislation, committee appointments, etc...), to hear from a speaker, and to discuss any issues relevant to Senate. From General Assembly, items can be sent downwards to a committee, reviewed from a committee, or disseminated to constituents. Session is led by a Speaker Chair, who is normally the Vice President, but can be the PPT or even another senator if the need arises. Dress code is normally in force, but can be cancelled by the Vice President.

Before Session

Before you come to session, try to review any upcoming legislation, read over last week's minutes (so you can suggest edits in a timely manner), and ensure you're in dress code.

Agenda

Session consists of the following phases:

  • Call to Order
  • Opening Prayer
  • Roll Call
  • Review of Minutes (look for errors in what you said)
  • Officier Reports (PPT and SAA)
  • Committee Reports (state your name and committee)
  • Special Business (resignations, inaugurations, elections, etc...)
  • Old Business (any items not yet addressed)
  • New Business (new legislation)
  • Announcements (for Vice President)
  • Open Forum (speaker presentation and general discussion)
  • Adjourn (motion by senator)

When Should I Bring it Up?

It can be difficult to know when to bring up an item. If in doubt, always ask. The chair will direct you appropriately. Some examples below:

  • Bill sent to Committee - Old Business
  • New bill - New Business
  • "My floor thinks that..." - Open Forum
  • Announcement of an event - Open Forum
  • Request for help in an event - Open Forum
  • Error in parliamentary procedure - Any time (see Robert's Rules table)

Absences/Substitutions

If you can't make it to session, contact the Vice President and PPT to let them know. As a senator, you're allowed 3 absences per semester, plus 3 substitutions. A substitution can be any resident of your floor, and is allowed to speak on your behalf. This is actually a great way to allow a potential senator the chance to come try out the position. Exceeding 3 absences or 3 substitutions (they can stack) is grounds for removal by the PPT. As there are currently no provisions for excused absences in our guiding laws, we will not mark down excuses. If valid reasons have contributed to your absences (sickness, class trip, etc...), they will be included in the PPT's considerations when reviewing attendance violations.

After Session

After session, make sure to follow up with any fellow senators you had questions for, and ask the Vice President or PPT if you need clarification on something. When you get back to your floor, inform your constituents of anything pertinent to them, such as the guest speaker's presentation. Let them know if concerns they had were addressed in session, and gather more information to bring to the next session.


Committess

Participating in a Committee

The Constitutional Bylaws say that committee membership is mandatory for first time senators for two semesters. This makes sense, as the committees are where the action happens in Senate. Read up on what each committee does on the committees page and in the Senate Bylaws. Chose a committee based off what interests you and what you think you'll be good at. Your committee chair will set up weekly meetings (around your schedule), which you should be sure to attend. If you become an active member, there's a good chance you'll end up chairing the committee next year! Don't think that you can't make a difference if you're not a chair. Senate is very much a "get out what you put in" position - you can make as much of a difference as you want to. Effective senators make a difference wherever they are, be it brand-new committee member or veteran President Pro Tempore.

Committess in Senate

There are five committees in Senate, each with a critical role to play. Click a link for details.

Joining a Committee

To join a committee, contact the PPT. Try to give them your top three choices, as your top choice may not be doable. The PPT will place everyone on a committee based on that committee's needs, your preferences, and your skills. Once the PPT has decided where to place you, they'll nominate you to that committee during General Assymbly (see above). With Senate's approval, you're conformed to that committee. There is no formal limit to how many committees you can be on, but there is generally a practical limit of two or three. Committee appointments are good for the duration of the year.

Guiding Laws

Senate's guiding laws consist of the Constitution, the Constitutional Bylaws, and the Senate Bylaws. They contain far more information than this handbook, so it is necessary to have at least a basic familiarity with their contents.

Constitution of the Student Body

The Constitution creates Student Government and provides overarching structure for Senate, YAC, LSM, and the Executive Cabinent. Changing the Constitution is very difficult, and as such it is only done rarely, on the order of every decade or so.

Constitutional Bylaws

The Constitutional Bylaws further interpret the Constitution and allow more specific guidelines (that can be changed with more ease) to Senate, YAC, LSM, and the Executive Cabinent.

Senate Bylaws

The Senate Bylaws are specific to Senate and give detailed information such as the committees, dress code, and the public record.


Tools

Structure

  1. The wiki is the public portal for all Student Government activities.
  2. Social media is a method to publicize events.
  3. Canvas is internal use mostly for discussion boards and coordinated announcements.
  4. Google Drive is even more internal, with committee-specific sharing settings. This is where you would collaboratively write bills.

Wiki

This wiki is the public face of Senate. All required public records can be found here, along with information about the current memebers of Senate, the history of Senate, and guidelines for how Senate works. It even has history-tracking, so there is accountability to article changes. While the wiki contains no legislative authority, it does generally contain the "practical explanation" of how Senate works, such as this handbook. The wiki is managed by the Public Records Committee.

The wiki was created in 2014 and is always improving. You as a Senator can help improve this wiki by updating and adding to it.

  1. Request an account, confirm your email address, and wait for approval.
  2. Go through the Wiki Tutorial and read how to create documentation.
  3. Look through the pages related to your committee(s) to see if anything needs to be added or updated.

If you want to help even more, you can do the following:

  • Check the Projects page to help with major improvements.
  • Look at Recent Changes to see what others are working on.
  • Add your own content!

If you're not sure if you should change something, contact the PR Committee.

Social Media

Senate has a presence on several social media platforms, including:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • LETU Buzz

These are primarily used to announce/advertise events and deadlines.

Canvas

We use Canvas as our internal portal. Communication is usually done through Canvas, as well as some training that cannot be done on the wiki (quizzes, for example). Individual grades for attendance are handled on Canvas (in addition to the published attendance records on the wiki).

You can access Canvas through courses.letu.edu

Google Drive

Your committee chair should share their Google Drive folder with you. This is where committee-specific internal assets are kept, as well as draft legislation is written.

Library Record

Before the wiki, all Senate records were kept in paper hard copy in the library. Records exist from 1983(sic) through 2014. Most of this information has not been transferred to the wiki, so it is sometimes necessary to dig through the records to find a precedent or change. The 2015 change to Senior Design team funding is a notable example of this process.

The eventual goal is to have all historical records online, but that remains an audacious task. The records that have been digitized so far can be found in the List of Old Senate Public Records

Officer Handbooks

These handbooks are primarily for the officers and chairs, but it's not a bad idea to take a look even if you aren't an officer. Knowing how other positions work often leads to being in that position, and the organization as a whole benefits from cross-training.

Vice President Handbook

President Pro Tempore Handbook

Sergeant-at-Arms Handbook

Secretary Handbook

Committee Chair Handbook