Of the 62 seats available in IU Student Association Congress, only about 35 are currently filled, Vice President for Congress Stephanie Kohls said.
Currently, the representatives are trying to recruit more members to represent IU students, she said.
“We lost a lot of people from winter graduation or class conflicts,” she said.
Junior Sidney Fletcher is a congress representative for IU’s off-campus student constituency. He said he is concerned with the lack of contact between members of Congress and their constituencies.
The constituencies of representatives are based on either geographical location such as Foster Quad, Union Street Apartments and off-campus students, or by academic department. Kohls said the number of representatives for each constituency is based on a census taken five years ago. For example, the Kelley School of Business has up to eight representatives.
Congress has five committees. Each deals with a different issue. These range from sustainability to student affairs. Kohls said representatives are appointed to committees based on their interests.
Fletcher said one way congress representatives could reach out to their constituencies would be a letter campaign from each representative or committee.
“These letters would explain ‘This is what I’m doing in Congress, this is what I might be useful for, this is how to reach me,’” he said. “Hopefully those letters would go to each constituency in the University.”
Fletcher said his idea has only been discussed between himself and other members of congress, not officially proposed.
Students agreed there is a lack of communication between students and their representatives in student government, especially congress.
IU students Audrey Webster and Kyra Betts both said they know almost nothing about the student congress.
“I’d like to know what they’re planning to do to keep students involved in IU,” said Betts, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. “Prices are rising, especially tuition.”
Betts said she would also like to know how the student government is dealing with diversity issues and with rumors about funding being cut to scholarship programs.
Webster, a freshman in the School of Public Health, said she had heard a friend talk about running for a position in IUSA when she began her fall semester, but has not heard anything else about the student government recently.
Kohls has been the Vice President for congress for two years. She said she works mainly as a communication liaison between the executive and legislative branches.
“My role is to go to the meetings, give congress an executive report so they know what’s going on [in the executive branch]. Then for any work that’s being done in congress, I come to the executive branch and present the resolutions that are passed,” Kohls said.
Like members of the executive branch, members of congress are elected or re-elected once a year. They may choose to run on a ticket with executive nominees, or they may choose to run alone. They do not receive a salary.
Kohls and Fletcher both said that most people learn about joining IUSA and the campaign process via word of mouth.
“If there are vacancies in the congress you can go to the executive branch and apply to become part of the congress,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher said he thinks members of IUSA should work harder to reach students, especially students who may be interested in running for office.
“Most people get involved because they know the executives,” he said. “I think that moving forward, that’s something IUSA should look at. How do we get more people, more students, involved?”
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