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ISSUE 119 VOL 13 PUBLISHED 3/10/2006

Senate reaches out

By Lisa Gulya
Arts Editor

Friday, March 10, 2006

Lack of student response to Talkback Tuesday has prompted the Student Senate subcommittee to consider new ways of gathering student feedback this semester.

The Talkback Tuesday forum was created during the 2003-2004 academic year to provide an additional opportunity, other than contacting their hall senators, for students to air concerns.

Student comments are then referred to the appropriate branch of the Senate or member of the St. Olaf community, such as Dean of Students Greg Kneser. Answers are then posted on the Student Government Association (SGA) publicity board across from the P.O. boxes in Buntrock Commons.

However, according to Rachel Erickson '06, vice president of SGA, recent comments at the forum have been less serious.

"A lot of times, unfortunately, it turns into comments on who the tablers are," Erickson said.

Kneser praised the forum’s possibility to reach students because "it captures a really busy audience."

On the other hand, Erickson said that as students rush to dinner, they "aren't really prepared" to make thoughtful comments about changes they would like to see on campus.

In light of these concerns, the Talkback Tuesday subcommittee has decided to take a new approach.

“This semester we’ve kind of revamped it,” said Erica Jaastad ‘08, chair of the subcommittee.

A Public Relations campaign will precede the first Talkback Tuesday session of the semester, next Tuesday, to get students thinking about the tuition increase. Each week’s topic will be posted around campus in advance of the Talkback Tuesday tabling.

“We want to start getting real feedback from people,” Jaastad said.

Even though students have not used the forum much this year, a change in approach is preferable to abandoning the outlet, Erickson said.

"It's still nice to know what students are feeling and what the opinion is out there," she said.

Kneser suggested adding new faces to the Talkback Tuesday table, which perhaps would spur more thoughtful comments.

"In the future, it might be interesting to invite 'live' interactions with people like the registrar as registration approaches," Kneser said.

He also suggested a regent or next year's new college president as possible personalities to attract student interaction.

"It could add a new twist, I think," Kneser said.

The Board of Regents Student Committee (BORSC) is a more formal committee, but issues raised at Talkback Tuesday have the potential to be adopted by BORSC and presented to the Board of Regents, Erickson said. Two BORSC representatives, Maren Anderson ‘09 and Margaret Wade ‘09, are also members of the Talkback Tuesday subcomittee.

Jaastad emphasized the potential of Talkback Tuesdays to create real change, whether by funneling concerns to the Board of Regents or elsewhere.

“We want this committee to work,” Jaastad said. “We want to be used as a resource.”

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