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Arts senator fights the battle of communication

By Emily Duke
On April 9, 2014

As only the fourth person to hold the position of senator for the Caine College of the Arts, Sam Wright is working to open up lines of communication for students and administrators — with mixed results.

After being elected for a second year, Wright said he is focusing on being a voice for the students in his college, on campus and in the community.

“I think that is the biggest challenge to every senator,” Wright said. “And it’s proved to be far more difficult to connect with the students than I ever dreamed it would be. I thought it would be really easy.”

The Academic Senate is comprised of eight senators, one from every college. With the growing pains of a new administration — the arts college was established and gained a senator in 2010 — Wright’s position is filled with uncertainty. According to the official position charter, Wright is required to hold regular office hours, form and chair an Arts Council, plan Arts Week and spend at least two hours a month outside of his office personally contacting students.

Some students feel Wright is very approachable and is doing his best to be involved.

“I personally haven't gone out of my way to meet him, but I would say that he makes an effort to get opinions from everyone in the different areas of the college,” said Hillary Newton, a junior majoring in art.

Other students disagree.

DeeJay Laughbon, a junior majoring in stage management, said she spends an average of 72 hours a week in the theater department and had never heard of Wright.

“I can only speak for the theater department, but he’s never been over there that I know of,” Laughbon said.

Wright said he didn’t want to point fingers, but said if students didn’t know who he was, it was on them.

“I went to mandatory meetings and waved at everyone and said, ‘These are my office hours,’” Wright said.

He wanted to make sure people would let him be a voice for them.

“When I sit in here in my office and no one comes in, that’s kind of a bum deal,” he said.

Students like Laughbon said they feel Wright favors the music department.

“If his emphasis is music he’s probably over there, which is nice,” Laughbon said. “But if he wants to represent everybody, then he needs to be over in the theater department, and he needs to be over in visual arts, and he needs to know what all of the students want.”

As a music major, Wright said he did worry students in other departments would feel underrepresented.

“I actually feel like I’m biased toward the other departments,” Wright said. “I feel like I make a special effort toward the other departments so they don’t say that I just represent music. I’m not just a music student. I am the senator of the arts. I represent all of them, and it’s my job to be there for them.”

Wright said he encourages students to come in and talk to him if they feel underrepresented and he will take the time to listen. He said if students feel uncomfortable meeting face-to-face, they can use the myVoice platform on the MyUSU website to anonymously voice their concerns.

“When they use the myVoice platform, if it’s a question concerning the arts, that goes into an inbox and I answer all of those,” Wright said. “Generally it’s anonymously, but if it’s specific to the college, I will say, ‘My name is Sam. I answered this question, here’s my email if you want to talk more about it.’”

Wright said he welcomes commentary on his performance as he enters his second year in office, acknowledging he can’t fix problems he doesn’t know about.

“No news is good news to me,” Wright said. “If nobody comes and talks to me, I don’t know.”
Twitter: @emily_seamqueen

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