Student Senate to Hold Open Forum

*Maggi Quigley contributed to this report*

Amid minor controversy, Student Senate is set to hold an open forum for their proposed capital fund project known as The Center for Engaged Learning and Student Success (CEL). The forum, according to Student Senate President Zach Lough, “will act as an opportunity for students to dictate what will constitute the CEL” and “voice their displeasure with the project.”

The forum is set for Mar. 3 and will be held in the Geil Lounge at 6 p.m.
The project would be “a one-stop center for students as they plan and execute their path to success, starting from their first visit to campus as a prospective student through their graduation from Wittenberg and beyond,” according to the Student Senate proposal. Career Service, Academic Services and the Office of Student Involvement would all be located in the CEL. The location of the CEL has not been finalized, but there are ongoing talks with Barnes and Noble about locating the center in the portion of the student center currently occupied by the book store.
The proposed project is to be financed through Wittenberg’s Capital account, which currently holds $350,000. The account is funded by the $300 Student Activity Fee that is attached to each student’s tuition. In addition to the Capital account, there is a donor who has brought the total money available for the project up to $500,000 (approximately the same amount spent on the last project – Founders and Dopplegangers).
Lough hopes to have a better sense of the total cost of the project after the student forum, where he hopes a clear picture of the center’s contents will emerge. Lough also looks to inform the students about what he describes as the limitations  on the Capital account. According to Lough, reallocating Capital account money away from infrastructure investments would be “a decision that has to be made by the board.”

While the majority of Student Senate supports the CEL, there were two senators who were vocal in their opposition to the plan. Freshman Sean Doyle and Sophomore DaVante Goins left the Senate after last semester in part because of their opposition to the project. Doyle criticized the project in a statement to the Torch, saying that while the project was well-intentioned, “by no means was it the product of listening to the voice of the people and ensured transparency. The entire process was kept behind closed doors and in closed sessions [and] talking to constituents was discouraged, but most importantly, it ran on the presumption that it was what the people wanted and needed.” Goins added to this line of criticism, saying, “the student body [was] not being allowed to be directly involved with the planning of it.”

Lough said it is incumbent on the students to communicate with their senators to voice disagreement. Lough cited the open session that happens as part of every senate meeting and encouraged students to contact their senators and vote in elections. Doyle, on the other hand, described reaching out to his constituents as “much to the opposition of Senate.”

While Lough said that the project is “in a sense rearranging,” he also added, “that in rearranging, we provide room for growth.” Using Career Services as an example, Lough said that students “will be more likely to use it if it is around other services they use, and [is] right in their face as the walk in.” Lough also encouraged students to think of the center as a “wipe board,” meaning its services could be changed as the needs of the university change.

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