Three Minutes with BSU Student Senate: Recent Bills and Advocacy Efforts

Since the start of this academic year, Sarah Kessler and Darby Bersie, Bemidji State University’s Student Senate president and vice president, have been hard at work advocating for BSU students and their success.

Kessler, an accounting major, explained Student Senate’s support for Nisidotaading, a new university initiative to introduce all BSU students to a course on Indigenous people prior to graduation.

“Every student who graduates from Bemidji State University is going to have to meet this requirement of taking an Indigenous studies course,” Kessler said. “This is something that Student Senate has been working on for the past four years. We started pushing for it in 2021, and we’re really excited about it. Nisidotaading is an Ojibwe word that means mutual understanding, and the requirement is all about improving our students’ education to include multicultural understanding.”

Bersie, a history major, shared reasoning behind a recent bill encouraging all faculty to include BSU’s land acknowledgment in their course syllabi.

“We believe that it’s important for our institution, just because we do reside near Minnesota’s three largest Native American reservations,” he said. “It’s read at all the events, and the one part that it’s kind of lacking in is what you come to college for, and that’s your classes. So we believe that in the interest of improving the experience that students have and increasing the education that they receive, this is an important acknowledgement to have in — especially early on, for freshmen who are coming to BSU for the first time.”

Kessler also mentioned two bills recently passed as part of the Student Senate’s Culture-Building Initiative. The senate passed a bill which bans any student fee-funded activity from purchasing disposable balloons due to their impact on the environment. She also spoke to the senate’s bill requesting that the university use a student’s preferred names in any circumstance in which use of a legal name is not mandated by law.

Bernie mentioned two other bills the senate has recently passed as part of its culture-building initiative.

The D2L Early Access Bill, passed in the fall semester, which asks faculty to open courses and release syllabi in the university’s D2L online learning platform one week prior to the start of a semester.

“Then students can have a sense of what their class will entail, whether it’s exam-based or primarily attendance or they have to write a lot of papers,” he said.

Finally, he mentioned a senate bill requesting that the university add an accessibility map for the underground tunnel system which connects most buildings on campus to BSU’s official campus map.

“These projects are small, but hopefully impactful for incoming and current students, faculty and staff,” Bersie said.