By Tim Leeds
With the new student senate sworn in this week, Dan Geelan says he wants to get the good word out to existing and prospective students about Montana State University-Northern.
"There's a lot of huge, positive things coming forward this summer," said Geelan, who was recently elected to a second term as president of the Associated Students of MSU-N.
News about Northern lately has been about controversy, like the suspension of women's basketball coach Kevin Emerick and the resignation of men's coach Brian Harrell after his department was audited.
"We've taken a lot of dings in the media," Geelan said.
The student senate conducted a survey of students' needs this year, Geelan said, and the university is beginning to address them.
"Roads and parking lots were right on top of the list," he said.
Work will start this summer to repair the university's parking lots, Geelan said. Repairs of the lots and streets will continue for three years.
A student parking permit fee has gone to pay off bonds for parking lot improvements in recent years. So an increase has been proposed to pay for the upcoming repairs.
The parking stickers now cost $15 a semester. Under the proposal, $2.25 would be collected per credit up to 12 credits. The stickers would cost $27 per student taking 12 or more credits each semester.
Now, only students who park on campus purchase the permit. Under the new system, all students would pay the fee.
A permit will be required to park on campus at any time. Currently, no permit is required between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m., or during the summer.
The second highest priority on the survey was improving residence life. The university is going to provide Internet access, telephones and cable television to the dorms, Geelan said.
A plan to convert Donaldson Hall, a former residence now used for offices, into a residence hall with different-sized suites and common areas will be presented to the next legislature, Geelan said.
Plans are also under way to renovate the Student Union Building, and the student senate offices are also being redecorated.
The student government, which meets every Monday night, will try to be more visible to the students, he said.
"We welcome them and I really encourage them to come," he said. "We deal with all the issues that affect students here."
The senate will be involved in recruiting students and in student orientation, Geelan said.
The role of the senate is twofold, Geelan said. The student government administers a budget of about $85,000 for student activities, and it represents the students to the university administration and the Board of Regents.
Geelan said he spends a lot of time talking with students. He would like to spend more, he said, but his own classwork limits how much he can do.
As the "warm body that voices concerns" to the administration and the regents, Geelan said, his duties take up a lot of his time, and he expects it to to take up more once the 2003 Legislature convenes. Northern is teaming up with MSU-Billings to hire a lobbyist to deal with the Legislature, he said.
The senate is also working to increase its representation, Geelan said. Its bylaws have been rewritten to allow proxy votes by senators from Northern's satellite campuses at Great Falls and Lewistown. In an unprecedented event, two of the at-large senators elected this year are from Lewistown.
The university is working on better publicizing the activities it offers to students and the Hi-Line. Concerts and comedians appear on campus fairly regularly, and special dances and celebrations are held. Regular activities include bowling and pool, and rock climbing, swimming and other activities are available at the gym.
Student life on campus seems to be moving closer to what it was when Geelan attended Northern in the 1980s, he said.
"The campus was really a community," he said. " I really see the campus moving back in that direction."