Written by McKenna Mirksy
Tyler Junior College has various organizations, including the Student Senate and the Faculty Senate. While both seem similar on the surface, the presidents of both senates give an inside perspective of what their organization is truly about.
Executive President of the Student Senate Brooks Melton describes the main functions of the organization.
“The main purpose of Student Senate is of course to be the voice of the student body to the administration, and also to oversee all student organizations on campus,” Melton said.
The Faculty Senate President Tim Gill gives his insight on the purpose of the faculty. “In our case here at TJC, there’s a concept in higher education called shared governance, and it’s the idea that the administration isn’t the only one who has a role in governing the school,” Gill said.
Gill explains that the Faculty Senate also has an impactful role for the campus. “We act kind of as advocates for the faculty to the administration on things that matter to us,” Gill said.
Not only do Melton and Gill describe each senate’s purpose, but also how they communicate with one another. Melton elaborates on how the communication works between the Student and Faculty Senate through the Chairman of Student Relations Committee, Justin Hall.
“I see him at every meeting of Student Senate and he’ll give me an update on whether or not Faculty Senate needs anything from us and vice versa,” Melton said. “As far as there being any formal interactions between Faculty Senate and Student Senate, there’s really not any besides communication between the faculty liaison and myself.”
Melton explains why there’s a lack of communication between the organizations.
“We both have two different objectives. We serve the students and they serve the faculty, but we both speak toward the administration,” Melton said. “Usually when it comes to the Faculty Senate, they specifically focus on faculty-oriented issues and we specifically focus on student-oriented issues. So anytime that the two intertwine or they meet, then we’ll have some communication.”
Melton said if any tasks need to be accomplished, the Student Senate members go to the department heads or administrators to resolve the specific issues being addressed. He specifies that the Student Senate doesn’t necessarily coordinate issues to the Faculty Senate; however, if they do cross paths then they communicate.
Gill said Hall “has regular contact with the Student Senate but beyond that I’m not aware of any kind of formal interaction between the two senates.” Gill also adds how he would like the Faculty Senate to interact more with the Student Senate so that students have access to resources to become more successful.
Aside from how the senates communicate, Melton and Gill describe challenges they face behind the scenes.
“I think not a lot of people see all the work that goes on behind closed doors. We’re always constantly doing something every day of every week,” Melton said. Melton describes various tasks the Student Senate does, such as meeting as an executive board, meeting with administrators and working on their committees.
“Most of the time I think people just see what we do in general assembly,” Melton said. “We come up, we give reports, we give different dates and things that are going on, but I think people don’t really see what goes on behind the scenes to really make this organization work.”
Gill describes the challenges from the previous relationship between the Faculty Senate and the administration.
“I think it would be safe to say that some of the people that were in the upper administration weren’t that receptive to what faculty thought,” Gill said. “They would just make decisions that affected faculty without really getting any kind of input first so they’d at least be considered about.”
Gill said the administration’s decisions were the final input of any situation without considering the faculty’s feedback. However, Gill said the relationship has greatly improved since he joined the faculty.
“Over the last few years that I’ve been involved, they definitely want to hear the faculty input before they make a decision that’s going to affect the faculty more broadly, but that wasn’t the case all the time.”
Other adversities Melton and Gill face are high expectations that come with their position.
“It is a very prestigious honor to be on the executive board for Student Senate, but with that prestige comes with a lot of responsibility,” Melton said. “Sometimes it’s a little difficult trying to find a balance between your academic life and your extracurricular life and your personal life, but if you really have a passion for it then you find how to fit all of those areas in together.”
Gill shares the main responsibility he and the faculty face, which is how they communicate, saying that the faculty is “the main coordination tool of the administration, so I feel an obligation for it to be as affective as possible.” Gill explained many people voice their concerns to the faculty. However, Gill said it’s more difficult to handle specific issues, rather than broad ones that affect the whole campus.
“It needs to have some kind of broader level of concern among the faculty members,” Gill said. “So sometimes they have to judge or be diplomatic about being sympathetic to their concern, but at the same time not necessarily making it a Faculty Senate issue to go forward with.”
Gill concludes how the main pressures that derive from how the faculty communicates with others, is having integrity and retaining a good reputation.
“I think there is a certain amount of responsibility as far as maintaining the integrity and the reputation because I think that things have changed. I feel a responsibility to maintain that positive reputation,” Gill said.
Melton emphasizes how Student Senate is always there for students in need.
“We are always here for the students,” Melton said. “We are always here to listen to students and a lot of the times I feel like some students don’t really know how to voice their opinions.”
Melton elaborates more into why he wants to help students.
“I just really want to embrace all the students that don’t feel like their voice is heard anywhere else that we are the avenue for them. We are their opportunity for them to be heard out. We as the Student Senate are here for the students. So if you have any problems, if you have anything that you feel like needs to be done, come to us and we’ll hear you out.”
Gill explains how the Faculty Senate is available for anyone on campus and how they’re willing to resolve any conflicts.
“We really are here for the whole college community,” Gill said. “We are the Faculty Senate, but it’s not only good things that matter that directly affect us as faculty members, but things that we’re concerned about that affect students, too.”
Gill describes the positive impact Faculty Senate has had for TJC. “We have a broad mission of support, and I think we really do have a positive contribution to the campus that affects a lot of people including students,” Gill said. “I think it’s been more than worth my extra time that it takes in involvement. I think we really do make a positive contribution to the college.