Senate executives set high standards
Alan Halfen and Kristin Shimpach were elected student body president and vice-president, respectively, for the University of Wisconsin-Platteville in the spring of 2003. They received 54 percent of the vote, whereas the remaining percentage was split almost evenly between the campaign teams of Peplinski-Hamblin and Stephens-Bulgrin.
After elections there was a large turnover of senate seats due to graduating seniors. According to Halfen, "Last spring 80 percent of senate graduated." The empty seats posed an initial dilemma this fall as executive board members sought students to fill these positions. Shimpach admits she was skeptical in the beginning of the year due to the number of new senators, but is incredibly excited at the prospect of what lies ahead for the remainder of the year. "The new senators have a positive attitude and bring fresh ideas, motivation, and enthusiasm to senate meetings which is nice to see." Added Halfen, "The new senators are definitely a strong foundation to continue to build the rest of senate off of."
Aside from representative changes, organizational issues have been addressed to ensure the smooth running of senate meetings. A major change is the order of the agenda. The new arrangement places action and discussion items first so guests need not wait through the executive board reports. Shimpach and Halfen understand that senators are students too. "It's a lot to ask them to attend a two hour meeting each week, attend committee meetings, put in office hours, plus continually be informed of the happenings on campus outside of governance activities," commented Shimpach. Thus, the executive board brings speakers from campus to senate meetings such as the women's center and multicultural services. This allows senators to be informed without the inconvenience of yet another meeting while at the same time allowing different areas on campus to speak about their activities.
These changes allow senate to be more organized and guarantees senate availability to hear what students and organizations on campus have to say. "When students come to us with issues, we need to be there for them to act on those issues in a prompt manner," commented Halfen. One such issue senate will be addressing is the aspect of differential tuition. Differential tuition is when students decide to add additional tuition dollars to fund services the state cannot pay for with tax dollars. "Most people think that differential tuition means one major will pay more money than another, but this is not the case," clarified assistant chancellor for student affairs, Mick Viney. "Really all differential tuition does is add a surcharge to students that the university cannot provide under their current funding model." At this time, UW-Eau Claire, LaCrosse, Oshkosh, Stout, Superior, and Whitewater utilize differential tuition programs. The increase in dollars paid by students ranges from $20 per semester at LaCrosse to $88 per semester at Stout.
At the Oct. 27 senate meeting an ad hoc committee of senators, led by Halfen, was formed to look into the variety of aspects differential tuition has to offer UWP. "Differential tuition is being looked at to increase areas where there is a lack of service to students," said Halfen. These areas have been identified and senate is looking into the possible implementation of differential tuition in these areas within the next semester. Any decision regarding differential tuition will impact all students at UWP.
Other executive duties this year include trips as international student ambassadors for the UW System's study abroad program. Halfen traveled to Seville, Spain, and London, England, where he received a first hand look at the study abroad programs. He also worked with students to identify and enhance the quality of educational programs and experiences offered to students studying abroad.
Shimpach recently returned from a similar opportunity where she traveled to Windesheim University in the Netherlands and Stavanger University College in Norway. Shimpach feels it was especially helpful to send a student representative who could focus more on student life on these international campuses, housing accommodations, and how UWP students can utilize public transportation. She was able to meet with students from each university to find out what types of activities students can participate in outside of class. The program being initiated allows UWP students to pay tuition and costs of living for Platteville, but actually attend school in another country. These trips benefited the UW System in their effort to send 25 percent of students abroad by their graduation.
Halfen is a political science and pre-law major. He plans to graduate in May of 2005 and pursue a master's degree in public administration and counselor education. Halfen is the son of Frederick and Alice Halfen of Prarie du Sac.
Shimpach is an early childhood education major with a minor in special education. She plans to graduate in May of 2005 and pursue a master's degree in student affairs. Shimpach is the daughter of Gail and Bob Shimpach of Boscobel.