The Associated Students of the University of Washington (ASUW) Student Senate is the legislative body of the ASUW. It is responsible for representing the opinions of all students that are members of the ASUW. The Student Senate strives to determine student opinion and form it into the policies of the ASUW.
The Senate was founded during the summer of 1994 from the foundations of its predecessor, known as the Student Assembly, which was formed in the 1980's. During the Spring 1994 elections, the student body passed by majority vote constitutional reforms proposed by the soon-to-be 1994-95 ASUW President Phil Neiswender. These reforms were in part aimed at making the ASUW a more democratic body by decentralizing power throughout the organization and away from the corporate directors (BOD). The Student Senate was one ramification of those reforms.
The Senate was built with a diverse membership in mind to ensure that groups throughout campus would be aware of the ASUW's activities, and that the ASUW would be aware of issues affecting students. Its membership includes representatives from the Greek and Multi-Greek systems, residence halls, ASUW commissions, commuter students, and various academic departments, among others. There are also at-large members, the ASUW President's proxy, and liaisons from the Board of Directors.
Any student registered as a member of the ASUW, though not able to vote, may submit legislation or speak on any issue during the public forum segment of the Student Senate meetings.
The Student Senate is the primary link between the leaders of the ASUW and its members, and is looked to by faculty and administrators alike as the voice of the student body.
All Senate executive positions are elected in the final weeks of Spring quarter by secret ballot. They formally assume their roles at the final meeting of Spring quarter over the watchful eye of the outgoing leadership.
Chair: The Chair oversees all functions of the Senate and chairs meetings of the Senate and Steering Committee.
Vice Chair: The Vice Chair assumes the responsibilities of the Chair in the absence of the Chair. The Vice Chair also represents the Senate to the BOD and other organizations and oversees all Senate Standing Committees. The Chair may coordinate with the Vice Chair to ensure these duties are carried out.
Secretary: The Secretary is in charge of all administrative functions of the Senate, including maintaining Senate files, writing correspondence and press releases, keeping minutes, tracking legislation, and managing supplies.
Membership Coordinator: The Membership Coordinator is in charges of maintaining membership rosters, overseeing attendance records, and chairing the Membership Committee.
Committee Liaisons: Committee Liaisons attend various ASUW committee meetings as voting members. Their main task is to communicate between the Senate and other ASUW entities. They represent Senate interests to the committee, and report on committee activities to the Senate.
The Student Senate breaks down into five committees, each of which is responsible for a specific area of student government. During the first weeks of Fall quarter the Senate will elect a chair for each of the standing committees. Each committee sets its own agenda, elects a secretary, and provides reports on its activities to the Senate. The committees distribute projects among Senators. These projects include researching issues as a group, consider legislation that comes before them and providing student representation as Governance appointees for the ASUW on university committees. Because they are smaller and more focused than the Senate as a whole, the committees are able to consider issues in greater depth. The main importance of the committees is that all legislation that comes before the Senate must pass through the appropriate committee. As such, the committees are the heart of the Senate. Each Senator is responsible for participation in at least one committee.
Academic Affairs: The Academic Affairs Committee considers issues pertaining to the academic life of students as well as faculty-related issues. Some issues addressed in the past include curriculum changes, implementation of a minors program, and the importance of instructor evaluations. In the past (when the Senate was the Assembly), this committee took an active role in the discussion of the Cultural and Ethnic Diversity requirement and other proposals that were brought before the Faculty Senate.
Campus Life: Campus Life is charged with looking at the issues that affect students that aren't related to academics or legislation. This includes the insurance and housing policies, the food services and special services around campus.
Membership: The Membership Committee deals with all membership-related issues in the Senate. This includes informing Senators of meeting times, recruiting new members and student groups into the Senate, and conducting new member orientations.
Faculty/Administrative Affairs: This Committee is responsible for looking into the issues on campus that deal directly with the faculty or administration that are not related to curriculum or quality of life issues. This committee may deal with fees, tuition, and administrative policies on equality and discrimination. This is the most politically active of the committees.
Projects: The Projects committee has the task of addressing issues or projects that do not readily fit into the framework of the other committees, but still represent the concerns of the Senate. This committee may explore topics and projects from a very wide subject matter. The main purpose of this committee is to work on the issues of concern that would otherwise not be examined within the Senate committees.
Senate Reform Task Force
The findings were passed with 56.12% of the vote. This was followed by a vote in 2006 to enable the Senate to propose Constitutional Referenda.