CATHOLIC VALUES COLUMNIST
Senior Derek Markle considered running for president of Franciscan University Student Government before he was even elected a senator in fall 2018.
The summer leading up to that fall semester, he reached out to junior Alex McKenna, then a freshman who had served the previous year on Student Government as executive assistant, to see if McKenna would be interested in joining him on his venture.
Soon enough, the duo began making its plans and preparing its campaign, which centered around the slogan “Expect More.” And when the election rolled around in April, Markle and McKenna were elected president and vice president with a landslide majority of the vote.
Now, not even one month into the school year, the two are already working on large-scale projects to deliver on their promise to students.
“I wanted to run with Alex because I thought we’d be a good team and no one else was stepping forward who had more experience or could do a better job, in my eyes,” said Markle. “Obviously, we can’t do everything, but we wanted to know what students want and see how we can prioritize those (things).”
Markle was able to receive a great deal of feedback regarding the wants and needs of students through his role as a resident assistant (RA) in Sts. Louis and Elizabeth Halls. Residents would frequently come to the RA office and tell him what they would like to see changed, from the cost of laundry to the availability of printers to how well the internet works around campus.
Markle didn’t have a whole lot of power to effect change as an RA, but now, as Student Government president, his ability to act has changed significantly.
He and McKenna have been working diligently on several projects, but two specific ideas are their main priority right now.
The first is to arrange for household members to be able to enter their household’s dorm using their keycards, even if they don’t live in that particular dorm. Markle said he is in discussion with Matthew Schaefer, director of resident life, and David Schmiesing, vice president of student life, to see if the idea is viable. He hopes to have a definite answer by the end of this semester or the beginning of the spring semester.
The second project is keeping the J.C. Williams Center open 24 hours for at least one day a week or over the whole weekend. Ideally, Markle said, when the building opens at 8 a.m. on Friday morning, it will remain open all of Saturday and won’t close until 11:30 p.m. Sunday night.
“After the dorms and the J.C. close at one or two in the morning, there’s nowhere for guys and girls to hang out, study or do anything, so they have to leave campus to find something,” Markle said. “That’s not something we want to encourage, so why not open something here and have that available?”
Markle said he has been working with Kathy Mattioli, director of student activities and programming, to see whether a trial period would be possible. Student Government has agreed to pay for a Jefferson Security officer to remain in the building during the extra hours and to pay time-and-a-half for any Switchboard worker who works the late-night shifts. He said they already have all the payments worked out and hope to have a trial period scheduled by the end of this semester.
The pair is also excited to be working with the new university president, the Rev. Dave Pivonka, TOR. Markle and McKenna are members of Shared Governance, the university’s decision-making body, and Markle said that with the new president, he wants to set up the precedence that “Student Government is here to be heard and represent the student body.”
“Father Dave is an absolute powerhouse,” said Markle. “He has so much zeal and fire, … and he appreciates the fact that the student body has a voice through Alex and I on some of these councils and administrative decisions.”
All of this work, Markle said, is a part of his drive for Student Government to serve the student body to its fullest extent.
“Every year, we’re asking the students for their support, and the students should be able to expect more from us,” he said. “We’re always building, we’re always moving forward. We’re never going backwards.”
I am interested in seeing if the JC idea takes off or not.