By Allen Stephenson
It’s no secret that Haskell Indian Nation University has had its fair share of ups and downs. With the recent onslaught of sequestered budgets and declining number of faculty and staff, the university has been struggling. The Student Senate unfortunately is no exception either. The senate has just gone through the process of taking applications for future senate hopefuls and while Haskell’s Student Senate has shown resilience over the past few years with dedicated students striving to build a better future for Haskell, the public Student Senate meetings are still haunted by the occasional empty chair.
Into this promising, bewildering, hectic, world enters Jon Wayne Cook-Furst, a father of two and Junior in the Business Administration program and the newest incarnation of Student Senate secretary. Despite all of the challenges with the new secretary position and the hard work it requires, when asked about why he chose to make a commitment to the Student Senate and his plans about the secretary position this is what he had to say.
“Really I saw that there was a need for a secretary, the position was vacant and I was asked to do it by our Student Senate sponsor Melanie Cesspooch. I’ve always had an interest in the Student Senate and have a background with other types of administrative work, filing, secretarial work, record keeping, so I thought I’d be perfect for the position.”
When asked about the recent vacancies in the senate and the changing atmosphere, Jon elaborates. “As far as the vacancies and high turnover, I don’t know too much about it. I’m aware that there’s been people who were there and have quit, but as far as to why, I don’t know, but I have my suspicions.”
When asked about his suspicions Jon tells us that: “The biggest thing I think is that it’s a great responsibility. There is a lot of work to do and as a student this is no incentive to do it, you’re not getting paid to do it, and there’s really not a whole great deal of a reward to do it. Except maybe on a personal level there’s a sense of accomplishment. They want you to do so many hours a week and things can get busy in a student’s life. Students have school work, Homework, some students have jobs and families, I think that some students simply become overwhelmed with responsibility.” With taking the mantle of Student Senate secretary, Jon has his work cut out for him, but when it comes to the particulars of what he does and how many man hours he puts into the position this is what he had to say.
“On an average week I work at least 10 hours if not more in the Student Senate office. I keep minutes and attend several meetings a week including committee meetings, leadership meetings, general assembly meetings, executive board meetings, so that 10 hours I mentioned doesn’t include all the meetings I attend. I also keep and collect the committee reports, club reports and as an Executive Board member I’m required to be the chair of a committee.”
Daunting as the job would seem, Jon tells us more about the work of the committee he is part of a tri-chair on. The Powwow Committee, their plans for the Commencement Powwow and also of the pitfalls and progress they have made in their effort to provide a better Powwow experience for the students and families of students planning to attend this year’s Commencement Powwow on May 9th.
“In regards to the Commencement Powwow, it’s a big job and it’s kind of overwhelming and frustrating. In the beginning there was a lot of student interest, but as time progressed our meetings have gone down to about 2-4 people. One student BJ Moses was in charge of a lot of stuff and has decided not to return over the spring break, since then we have had to figure out what he was working on and pick up the slack. We are working hard to put everything together and I never realized how much work a committee does.”
Jon goes on to confirm certain details about this year’s Commencement Powwow. “For safety reasons we have decided to do a fence this year. It has been decided that there will be an admission fee this year, but the Student Activity Department will cover the Admission of students that want to attend this year, general public from Lawrence will have a 5 dollar admission fee and graduating students will have three free passes to give to their family members.”
The challenges of the secretary position and what needs to be done to fix current discrepancies Jon discusses next. “The challenges now are organizational issues and the biggest issue is communication. We are working really hard to improve communication standards. We are receiving a lot of input by the Student Senators from the various clubs and analyzing their suggestions so we can formulate a plan to implement better communication.”
With the recent resignation of Cody Gibson from the Vice President position and pending Student Senate elections, Jon tells his hopes for increase in student interest concerning the senate and helping establish a more resolute Student Senate.
“I hope to be a contributing factor to improvements and leadership. I want to help the senate get better organization and increase communication standards. Personally I want to do whatever I can to make improvements across the board.”
In order to have some clarity and perspective on Jon’s efforts, Freshman Representative and Student Chair of the housing Committee Grace Denning offers some insight into her time working with Jon Cook-Furst on the executive senate board. “While reviewing minutes and discussing issues brought to the senate, I’ve seen he’s diligent and organized. He has helped other executive members stay on task and/or make progress. Although rather soft spoken, he has a way of getting to the point of conversation. Jon has always been friendly and sincere. He seems dedicated and interested in his work and is taking great measures in working on the Powwow Committee.”
The Student Senate may be in the middle of big change and have its complicated past behind it, but there is nowhere else to go but towards a brighter and more secure future and always Onwards Haskell.