On-Campus Food Pantry:
Student Senate has partnered with KU Fights Hunger and the Center for Community Outreach to move the Campus Cupboard, previously located off campus, to a more accessible location in the KU Memorial Union. This new location provides students in need of food assistance easier access to resources. Expanded hours of operation will also allow students to visit the pantry on their own time rather than trying to work around the pantry's operation schedule. The pantry provides food resources and other relevant products to ensure a healthy lifestyle at KU. Next year, we plan to expand the products offered to include hygiene products.
Open Educational Resources:
The cost of higher education continues to rise with each passing year, and eventually those costs can be too much to bear for our students. One aspect of education costs that we focused on this year was the cost of textbooks. We worked dilligently to expand awareness and application of open educaitonal resources on our campus. Open educational resources (OERs) are openly licenesed textbooks that are free for students to use when assigned by their professor as required course material. In particular, we've worked to expand OERs in a few key ways:
Established Textbook Affordability Award: We recognized Professor Ingrid Peterson for her hard work to adopt OER in her College Algebra classes, saving students a total of $270,000 in textbook costs this year, by presenting her a plaque in coordination with the Provost at our last Full Senate meeting of the semester. We also recognized her at our monthly Kansas Board of Regents Meeting as a model for best practies in adoption of OER.
Passed a Resolution Through Full Senate Endorsing OERs at KU: In November of 2018, the Student Senate voted unanimously to approve a resolution that endorse OERs as a solution to high textbook costs on our campus. This resolution was sent out to campus deans, departments, the Office of the Provost, and the Office of the Chancellor to show that studes firmly supporterd OERs as a response to rising textbook costs. A copy of that resolution can be found here.
Administered Textbook Affordability Survey and Drafted a Data Analysis Report: Student Body President Noah Ries worked closely with other KBOR student body presidents to create a survey that was sent out to the entire student body on every KBOR state university campus. The survey asked questions related to textbook affordability and open educational resources with the intent of gathering empirical data on how textbook costs are hurting students and why OERs are a viable solution. The report will be submitted to the Kansas Board of Regents in May of 2019 for review and recommendations moving forward. The finalized report (once completed) can be found here.
Chartered the KBOR OER Action Committee: The student body presidents from the KBOR state universities came together to advocate for and successfully implement an OER steering commitee (final name subject to change) that will comprise of members of every institution working to expand OER on our campuses across the state. The committee will gather recommendations to include in KBOR's Foresight 2020 plan for Kansas Higher Education. This will ensure that the hard work of this year's administration to lower the cost of textbooks continues even after turnover.
Co-Sponsored the Adoption of OER for KU COMS 130 Course: Student Senate partnered with KU Libraries and the Communications Department to transform the COMS 130 textbook from a traditional cost-based textbook to an open educational resource. This will be implemented in Fall 2019 and is estimated to save students $250,000 a year in textbook costs.
Parking Amnesty During Finals Week:
We understand that finals week can be one of the most stressful times for a student, and that parking tickets during that week would only add to that stress. That's why we partnered with KU Parking & Transit to provide parking ticket amnesty to anyone who parks in a yellow or green student lot during finals week. We hope that extra relief of being able to park on short notice to make it to that final exam or quickly turn in a final term paper will go a long way to help our students be successful in their last week of the semester.
Report It Page:
Having ease of access to reporting mechanisms on campus ensures that students, faculty, staff, and visitors can remain safe while on campus. Up until now, the method for reporting anything from a wi-fi outage to a sexual assualt and everything in between was very decentralized and confusing. Student Senate fixed this by piloting a new, centralized, web-page where all reporting forms and links are housed in one place. This will allow those who need assistance to spend less time stressing and looking for help and more time getting the care they need to be safe and productive at KU. You can access the web-page by clicking here: http://reportit.ku.edu.
Expansion of Resources for Survivors of Sexual Violence:
College campuses are unfortunately a hotbed for cases of sexual harrassment and sexual assault. KU Student Senate is working to change that narrative through education and partnership with SAPEC. We are also working to expand resources for survivors of sexual assault here on campus. We have partnered with the STA Care Center in Lawrence to specifically address some of these issues. Some specific initiatives include:
Trauma Informed Reporting Rooms: Student Safety Advisory Board funded a trauma informed reporting room for KU Public Safety Office, the Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access, and in the Sexual Trauma & Abuse Care Center in town. These rooms have proven to be a more comfortable space for survivors when reporting their assault, allowing for a more comfortable experience in a difficult situation.
Anonymous Online Support Group Therapy: RAINN software rolled out in March of 2019 that allows for KU survivors of interpersonal violence the ability to partake in online anonymous support groups with other survivors. The group is complete with a moderator for the discussions via a partnership with the STA Care Center. Our hope is that we can empower survivors through connecting them with others in the community in a way that is both accessbile and comfortable.
Establishment of a Fee for SAPEC: For the first time ever, SAPEC will be recieving a required campus fee in FY 20 to provide monetary assistance for both undergraduate and graduate student support in their office. We hope the increase in resources will translate to increased awareness to sexual violence on our campus and increased prevention measures to ensure our students are safe.
Title IX Reporting Reform: Following conversations between the IOA, SAPEC, and Student Senate, the IOA adjusted current practices to be more trauma informed and student-centric. Some examples of changes made include an increase in reception desk presence and more thorough vetting of office visitors. Student Senate also participated in the hiring process for a new Title IX Investigator.
Free The New York Times Subscription for Students:
News is how we stay informed on what is going on in the world around us. Unfortunately, many students don't have the capital necessary to subscribe to newspapers like the New York Times that offer quality information that is constantly updated for users. Student Senate worked to change that by negotiating with The New York Times to offer an 18 month subscription for all KU students that will run until May 2020 at no additional cost to students. With a hefty reserve from our previous Newspaper Readership Fund, we were able to finance the subscriptions without levying student fees at all.
Conceptualization and Securement of Student Engagement Center (name subject to change):
While our campus has a plethora of resources for students to succeed, we still felt like there were some key aspects of a successful college campus that were missing at KU. The Student Engagement Center solves all of those problems at once by offering students services and resources once previously non-existent on our campus. The space will house a dedicated Graduate Student Lounge for post-grads to grade papers, meet with colleagues, meet with students (if they are a GTA) and relax away from the stresses of campus. The E-Sports Arena will allow for the creation of an E-Sports team at KU, which could eventually lead to new revenue streams for our University. The space will also house an Innovation Lounge and Collaboration Space, for workshops, group projects, lectures, and organization meetings to promote entrepreneurial thinking and cross-discipline collaboration. The space, located directly below the Burge Union, is set for completion in January 2020, where it wil be opened up to the campus for use. More information about the space can be found here.
Students who identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community have long been underserved at the University of Kansas and Student Senate is working with entities like the Office of Diversity & Equity, the Center for Sexuality and Gender Diversity, and the Office of Multicultural Affairs to expand and improve resources for LGBTQ+ students. Some specific initiatives include:
On-site Transgender Hormone Therapy Treatment: Watkins Health Services now offers on-site transgender hormone therapy treatment for students who are just beginning their transition. Although Watkins had previously offered this as a service for returning patients, students would have to drive as far away as KU Med Center in some instances to actually get the tests done for their first appointment. Now, students can begin that processs here on campus, alleviating a serious accessbility barrier for many students who identify as transgender or more broadly as members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Expansion of Free HIV Testing and PrEP Services: Watkins has expanded their amount of free HIV testing offered at the University to once a month. These free tests are offered outside of the SGD Center in the Kansas Union. Dates for these tests can be found at: http://studenthealth.ku.edu/free-hiv-testing.
Diverted Resources to the Center for Sexuality and Gender Diversity: For the first time ever, Student Senate provided a block allocation to the Center for Sexuality and Gender Diversity to increase funding for programming and for the creation of an undergraduate student assistant. We hope that, with the ever-expanding volume of LGBTQ+ students on campus, we can match the demand with an increase in resources for those in the community. We hope this also shows that we've prioritized the safety and inclusion of members of the LGBTQ+ community this year.
Expansion of Mental Health Resources:
Let's admit it. College can be stressful. The stress of managing a job, classes, social life, living away from home and so many other factors can quickly pile up on a student, causing serious mental health issues. Since 2015, demand for mental health services on our campus has skyrocketed, and yet devotion of resources to mental health services has not. We've worked to change this in a few tangible ways:
Additional Funding for Suicide Prevention in Town: Senate will also be sponsoring the addition of another overnight staff member at the Headquarters Counseling Center in Lawrence for nights where call traffic can be particularly high. This will ensure that anyone who is attempting suicide will have immediate access to the care they need when they call the suicide hotline number, rather than just being put on hold in such a dangerous situation.
Hosted Marginalized Communities & Mental Health Panel: Our Director of Diversity & Inclusion, Trey Duran, coordinated our first ever panel exploring the intersection of mental illness and those who hold marginalized identities. The panel brought in administrators from all over campus to discuss how we can better support our marginalized communities, especially when faced with mental health crises or illnesses. We plan to host a similar panel again next year to continue the conversation.
Creation of New Position: Graduate Student Body Vice-President:
Graduate students represent one fourth of all students on our campus, yet lack an infrastructure through which they can be properly represented in administrative decisions affecting students. Our Graduate Affairs Director, Pamela Johnson, along with several key graduate senators, worked to change this by creating a brand new position on staff. The Graduate Student Body Vice-Presdient will be the new spokesperson for graduate students in all decisions affecting them. We hope this representation, along with a few changes in the structure of the Graduate Student Advisory Board, will allow graduate students a more effective outlet for representation and positive change at KU.
Athletics 50/50 Fundraiser:
Beginning this year, Kansas Athletics Incorporated (KAI) began a home game raffle program to raise money for resources on campus and charities in town. Student Senate leveraged this new program to partner with Athletics in funding critical resources on campus. After splitting the funds from 4 home basketball game raffles with raffle winners, Student Senate and Athletics raised roughly $5,000 to fund essential services on our campus. Recipients include the Campus Cupboard, the Graduate Student Emergency Fund, the Interpersonal Violence Survivors Fund, and the Good Samaritan Fund. We sincerely appreciate Athletics' cooperation and commitment to looking out for students, especially those most in need.
Student Senate is by no means perfect. The processes by which we operate are often times not the most efficient, and at times even inequitable to students. Because of that, this year we underwent a series of reforms with the intention of increasing outreach to the student body, increasing access to our organization for those looking to engage with Senate, and increasing efficiency for those recieving funding from us. Some of these reforms include:
Establishment of an Official Outreach Program: We now have an outreach program where we visit student organizations in the fall semseter to provide updates to them and allow them to offer feedback and comments to us. We feel that this will increase awareness and engagemnt with organization. In the Fall of 2018, after launching, we visied upwards of 30 student organizations. We hope next year's administration can double that!
Administered Internal Demographics Survey: Representation is important, especially in a representative body like Student Senate. In order to see where we were at in terms of representation of diverse identities, we released a survey to every member of Student Senate to anonymously gain some demographic feedback. The results were compiled into a report that was shared with the Senate along with some recommendations on how to increase our diversity and representation within our ranks.
Expanded Freshman Internship Program: Following the creation of the Internship Program last year, our Internal Affairs Director, Luke Ehly, wanted to ensure that we expanded our program to incorporate even more freshmen. Thankfully, this year we were able to induct 28 people into our Freshman Internship Program class for 2018-2019, practically doubling the numbers from the previous year.