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CCU Atheneum:

Staff senate set to have inaugural session Oct. 9

by Caroline P. Rohr
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Hurricane Florence and the subsequent flooding that took place across Horry County throughout the month of September caused many delays and cancellations of events, meetings and other plans across campus. Among those postponements was the inaugural meeting of the new staff senate at Coastal Carolina University.

The formation of the staff senate was announced via email in early August, along with information on the senate's role, a link to the bylaws, and a nomination form. The inaugural meeting was originally scheduled for mid-September, but has since been rescheduled for Oct. 9 at 9 a.m.

Elections for senators took place throughout August and September, starting with nominations and then voting. The inaugural cohort of staff senators was announced on Sept. 24:

Sandy Baldridge-Adrian, Shaun Bannon, Dwayne Beam, Carolyn Bender, Jean Bennett, Lisa Bernadyn, Alli Crandell, Mike Cruise, Amanda Darden, John Dooley, Cecilia Finch, Lynn Fox, Mark Garrison, Dawn Hitchcock, Marcus Holmes, Margaret Hurt, Judy Johns, Sharon McCants, Melanie McKeefery, Greg Nance, Justin Poindexter, Wendy Singleton, Bryce Skipper, Alicia Stanley, Michele Varga, David Yancey, and Travis Youngblood.

The staff senate replaces the Staff Advisory Council, which was created after an early strategic plan called for a council to be set up that reported directly to the president. Members of the council were appointed by administration and served two-year terms. The mission of that group was to facilitate an active and participatory line of communication and engagement among the University community.

Members of the final Staff Advisory Council agree that transitioning to a staff senate gives the staff a more respected voice at the University and will be able to make more informed, meaningful and powerful recommendations to the administration.

“Establishing a staff senate is an idea that had been raised several times over the years,” said President David A. DeCenzo. “When the strategic plan was finalized, I felt the timing was right to move forward with transitioning from a staff advisory council to a senate. I supported the transition, but it was Dan Lawless and his team on the advisory council that have made this happen. This initiative gives our great staff here at CCU the opportunity to have a robust and effective voice on issues that are important to them and to the University.”

Lawless, University registrar, served as the Staff Advisory Council chair during the transition. He credited the entire council for making the staff senate a reality.

“The council worked very hard to make this occur,” he said. “We are all excited that it has come to fruition and for the possibilities this senate can bring to the University. We have provided the best framework we could, and we’ve created what we feel is a good structure.”

That framework is similar to that of the faculty senate and was built using Clemson University’s staff senate bylaws as the foundation, according to former staff advisory councilmember Molly French. But both French and Lawless said where the senators and its executive leadership decide to take this foundation will be up to them and will depend largely upon staff participation.

The staff senate provides opportunities for those who want to be involved and who have a passion for representing others and making a positive difference, not only for staff members, but for the life of the institution and its future, Lawless said.

“It’ll be a mixed bag of experience,” he said. “They’re going to be learning together, and it’s a rare opportunity for folks to be able to do this.”

The biggest challenge for the Staff Advisory Council to overcome during the transition to the staff senate was figuring out a system of representation that best fits Coastal Carolina University. Ultimately, the council decided that representation wouldn’t be best organized by department or building, but by function.

“What mattered most was not numeric representation,” French said, “but instead functional representation based on a shared set of experiences and challenges. This means that some functional groups are made up of departments that are under different branches of the University’s organizational structure.”

This is why groups like CeTEAL, COOL and Sponsored Programs and Research Services are a functional group represented by one senator – they are united by the common shared experiences and issues of assisting faculty. Functional groups with more than 60 staff members have two senators, and senators serve either two- or three-year terms for overlap.

The first order of business for the staff senate will be to elect the president, vice president, secretary and parliamentarian. These elections will take place prior to the Oct. 9 meeting electronically.

Staff who have suggestions or topics for the senate to consider should email their senator directly.


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