A Look into the Inner Workings of Student Congress

If students take the time to check “This Week at Hope” emails, they may see consistent updates from Student Congress. While most students are familiar with hearing about Student Congress, few really know what Student Congress’ involvement on campus looks like.

Student Congress serves as a bridge between faculty and students. It can serve as a voice for the people. Like all student groups, Student Congress is funded by student tuition. General Congress is composed of around 40 members. First, there’s the executive board. This consists of the President, Vice President, Critical Issues Symposium Chief, Assessment Chief, Appropriations Chief and Culture and Inclusion Chief. Kate Kalthoff (24’), the current President, works one-on-one with the College’s leadership, including President Matt Scogin and Dean Rebekah Starkenburg. Cecilia Casper (24’), current Vice President, and Maria Shaver(24’), Chief of Staff, lead Congress meetings. 

The Critical Issues Symposium Chief is a fairly new position in charge of planning the annual Critical Issues Symposium that occurs in early September (2023 Discerning Truth: A Review of Justin McBrayer’s Address). The Appropriations Chief leads the committee responsible for handling all student organization funds and assessing how much money is granted to each student organization. The Culture and Inclusion Chief leads a board composed of one member from each of the Multicultural Student Organizations and a Vice Chief.  Along with the Assessment Committee, the Assessment Chief assesses the departments within Hope and tracks their performance through student surveys. Additionally, there are also dorm representatives, campus representatives and elected class representatives. Chad Perrine (26’), Chair of The Campus Life Task Force, explained that Congress is also divided into three task forces, each of which has a faculty board counterpart: Campus Life, Administrative Affairs and Academic Affairs. Nearly every member of Congress sits on a task force and committee.

So what kind of things has Student Congress been involved with on campus? Probably far more than you might think! For example, Student Congress recently worked with Physical Plant in order to install new furniture within the Bultman Student Center. Two years ago, the Student Congress also pushed for installing water fountains with convenient water bottle fillers. Furthermore, after gaining feedback and research through student surveys, Congress worked with Creative Dining Services to add more napkins in Phelps dining hall. 

Academically, Student Congress even helped revise The Anchor Plan. Newly enforced just this Fall semester, many students have had a difficult time adapting to the requirements of the plan. While students may have complaints about the new plan, Chad emphasized that Student Congress significantly improved the Anchor Plan. “It went before Congress several years ago when it was first being discussed,” he said. “We sent it back and basically told them to start over. It may not be what everyone wants now, but things could have been a lot worse.”

While the group hopes to drive positive change and improvement, Student Congress has had trouble with getting the student population involved and getting the group’s information out there. For example, Chad notes, “I want students to know that they have the capability to change things on campus because faculty are receptive. Faculty actually care about student opinions. The main reason we get things done is because we [Student Congress] are the people who ask questions.”

If you are interested in meeting with Chad Perrine to learn more, discuss the student experience at Hope, or ask questions, his office hours are Wednesdays at 1:30pm at the Kletz.

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