St. Catherine University’s Student Senate held their first weekly meeting of the 2018 spring semester on Tuesday, Jan. 30 in the Rauenhorst Ballroom.  The Senate primarily discussed future steps to take in the wake of the arson incident that occurred on campus on Jan. 17, 2018.

Tnuza Hassan, a 19-year-old former student at St. Catherine University allegedly started eight fires within seven different buildings on campus.  The fires were small and quickly contained by the St. Paul Fire Department.  No injuries to people or significant damage to university property were reported.

Student Senate President Biftu Bussa, Public Health Major, ‘18, posed the question of whether Senate members collectively have the authority to make prompt statements on behalf of the student body in the case of any future campus-wide incidents.  A general consensus of agreement became reached in the discussion that followed.

Several members present at the meeting asserted that the Student Senate must assume a visible and representative leadership role whenever a significant event occurs.  Ellen Wallingford, Women and International Development Major, ‘18, who serves as a Diversity Co-Chair, stated firmly: “We as a Senate do have a responsibility to restate our commitment to St. Kate’s students and community after any incident that affects our campus.”  It became agreed upon that the Senate’s Leadership Team (which currently comprises of Biftu Bussa ‘18, Muna Scekomar ‘18, and Maakwe Cumanzala ‘19) will draft any statements made by Senate in the future so that they are released in a timely fashion.  The Senate will vote on approval of the statements during their weekly meetings.

Senate members agreed to the suggestion that they more frequently share university news releases on their personal social media accounts so as to keep their constituents informed.  The Leadership Team requested that members of the Legislative Board mention the incident in an email to their specific groups of constituents so as to invite student feedback and questions.  Members of the Legislative Board reported discussion among their constituents regarding a need for debriefing sessions following significant incidents.

Senate members expressed appreciation of the university’s improved communication through email, social media, text messages, and LiveSafe app notifications.  However, debate arose during the meeting regarding the follow-up email sent by St. Catherine University President Becky Roloff on Jan. 20, in which she stated that she had met with Muslim students.  Some Senate members expressed fear that since the email identified Hassan’s religious affiliations, false equalizations would be drawn between her actions and the Muslim faith.

Commuter Senator Nimo Mohamed, Public Health Major, ‘19 expressed concern that Muslim students at St. Kate’s would be unfairly targeted with questions about the incident.  She asserted that the St. Kate’s community must firmly uphold the university’s principles of religious acceptance and inclusion.

“We all come here as scholars and we all come here to learn,” Mohamed asserted.  “We all deserve the same respect.”

The Student Senate’s debriefing on the arson incident concluded with remarks from Curt Galloway, Associate Provost/Dean of Students and Co-Advisor for the Senate.  Galloway encouraged collaborative dialogue between St. Kate’s students and faculty in order to constructively move forward from the incident.  Galloway shared his message for the student body:

“Nothing ever substitutes for discussing current issues with you and hearing your experiences.  Come talk to me so that I can more fully understand your perspective and make better changes for the future.”

For the remainder of the meeting, the Leadership Team engaged Senate members in forming groundwork plans for the semester.  Topics included upcoming funding proposals and faculty guest speakers, the release of updated student discount cards in mid-February, and details regarding a second Get Connected discussion forum between St. Kate’s faculty and staff.

Student Senate meetings are held every Tuesday from 12 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. in the Rauenhorst Ballroom.  All students are welcome to attend and participate as guests in the gallery.

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