An Interview With the New Senate President

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Matthew Korb: Now, we can start with an easy question: Why did you decide to run for Student Senate President?

Austin Davis: For the past three years –all throughout college- I’ve served on Senate. But during my first year it never occurred to me to run for President. It wasn’t, in my mind, an option. But while I was the Vice President for Club Affairs, I met with many group heads and faculty members. Serving as the head of the Club Affairs Committee helped me understand the students’ needs. I wanted to carry that experience, coupled with a strong sense towards public service, on to Senior Year and Senate. And, hopefully, beyond college.

Korb: Speaking of that, what sort of experience will you bring to the Student Senate Presidency?

Davis: I’ve worked extensively with student groups while serving as the Vice President for Club Affairs. While the Committee Chair I had to view all options present. I had to learn how to allocate student senate resources. But, most importantly, I learned how to help Student Senate get more involved with the campus. I made sure that we would move away from our past model and be more involved, not only with clubs and organizations, but also with students and the campus as a whole.
For example, I was involved heavily with groups like Idea Fund, Dog House, the Media Board…I worked with the new Dickinson Science Magazine, helping it get off the ground and establish itself on campus. It was a great experience helping students and professors work together to combine extracurricular interests with academic work. It is the kind of involvement – between students and faculty – that I want to see more of at Dickinson.

Korb: What plans do you have for your term? 

Davis: Samantha Lodge – she likes to be called Sammy – and I have been working on a few things already for next year. We’ve started working to get food trucks on campus. That involves meeting with Carlisle’s Mayor Tim Scott to talk about any issues of getting trucks to come. Things like food trucks not only improve our quality of life as students, but also improve the standing of the college with the Burroughs.

Korb: Any plans for the campus specifically?

Davis: One issue I want to address is housing. I served on the Housing Advisory Committee, but I want to make it a permanent fixture of Dickinson. I want to expand its roll and involve more students in its decision process; students deserve to have direct input in how the dorm renovations are done.
I am also hoping to foster a greater dialogue between students and administrators. I hope to make these two groups more transparent to one another by holding co-Town Hall meetings with Senators and administrators like President Roseman and Dean Bylander. These co-Town Hall Meetings would be an open venue for students and faculty to discuss problems or ideas that they may have, or get questions answered from people they would not normally interact with.

Korb: The big news around campus, beyond your election, is how many people came out to vote this year. Can you comment on that at all? Why do you think so many people showed up to vote this year?

Davis: This was the most competitive election Dickinson has seen in the last few years. Four out of the six cabinet positions were contested, which is surprising considering how so many of the same positions went uncontested last year. It is a testament to how much Will and Student Senate have increased the engagement of students.
And turnout? All I can say about it is the steps I took to get people out to vote. Sammy helped run a very good campaign. Though she was abroad, I also worked hard; meeting with students and going dorm-to-dorm to ask students to go out and vote. Sammy created a survey and helped build up an online social presence.
We wanted to remind people to vote.

Korb: What do you think about past Student Presidents’ terms? What do you think of Will Nelligan’s term this year?

Davis: Will came into office with a very daunting task: Representing student needs. A task he has handled very well. In this past year he has allowed student senate to get out more amongst the students. He has met with club presidents every week and encouraged more organizations to come to student senate for help. He was integral in passing many initiatives that have benefitied the campus, like the Public Affairs Committee.
His work has helped students view Senate as a helpful organization that is out for their interests, not just a source for funding.

Korb: Will you continue Nelligan’s work?

Davis: Yes. I plan on still going around to clubs and organizations each week, to keep them involved and show them that Senate supports them. I also want to work on a program that asks students and student groups to come and present initiatives and plans to Senate each money.
I want students to come to us and let us know what we should work on.

Korb: Do you think there are any “big problems” that you and Senate needs to address?

Davis: Community engagement. Will and other senators did an incredible job with increasing Student Senate’s engagement with the campus. But –even with all the work- there is still a disconnect between us and other students. I want to work to help show others that Student Senate is here to help and listen to their interests.

Korb: Well, there have been a lot of student organizations who have begun advocating for campus changes. Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Dickinson Divestment…How will your presidency handle these groups?

Davis: It is in Student Senate’s bylaws that the president must remain neutral. Saying that, we are always open to listen to any student. It is part of the democratic process to let students voice their messages, regardless of how much support they may receive. I want these groups to know that Student Senate is here to listen to them and their interests.

Korb: Do you have any parting thoughts you’d like to include?

Davis: I am happy that the students came out in such numbers to vote for all of the candidates, not only myself. The voting turnout was awe-inspiring, and is something that should really be commended.
Having said that, I am also honored that students chose me to represent them as their Student Senate president. And I am lucky that I have the chance to work with such a talented cabinet of people. Next year will be a very good year.