Saturday, March 31, 2012

Students Model the U.S. Senate

StetsonU students, from left, Chloe Hill, Jeremy Rill and Spence Purnell portray U.S. senators as they participate in the 41st annual Floyd M. Riddick United States Model Senate. (Photos by Sam Pineas '13, Stetson University Marketing social media intern)

Business suits, briefcases, bills and legislative rules were the order of the day as 100 students from Stetson University and eight other colleges and universities from across the country convened at Stetson as the Floyd M. Riddick United States Model Senate from March 15-17.

The 41st annual Model Senate sessions were filled with students voting and responding in accordance with the thoughts and views of their respected senators they portrayed during Model Senate. Model Senate is a completely student-led event on Stetson campus. In addition to Stetson, participating students were from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ky., Bridgewater (Mass.) State University, the University of Florida and Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Goucher College in Baltimore, Md., and Valdosta (Ga.) State University.

Founded in 1971 by Stetson Political Science Professor T. Wayne Bailey and then-political science student John Fraser, Stetson’s Model U.S. Senate is the nation’s oldest collegiate level Model Senate.

The experience allowed the students “to take an active role in the American legislative process, rather than learn through the traditional classroom model,” said Stetson Associate Professor of Political Science David Hill.

The annual exercise in politics and governance opened with a reception featuring Hill, Stetson alumna Betsey Palmer and Stetson Provost Beth Paul. An analyst with the Congressional Research Service, Palmer has served for seven years as Model Senate’s official parliamentarian. She shared Riddick’s Rules of Procedure, the parliamentary procedure including rules, ethics and customs followed by the U.S. Senate. Stetson student John Kahle, who portrayed Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, said Palmer’s overview was helpful because the rules are different than the Robert’s Rules of Order style normally used by Stetson’s Student Government Association.

Kahle noted that senators should say “I yield my time” after addressing Madame President on the floor. Madame President was portrayed by Stetson student Jill Brownfield, who portrayed U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden, D-Del. Stetson student Dudley Joseph, who portrayed Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, said the presentation “provided a different perspective and snapshot of an actual senate session” and showed the “real-world procedures and history of Senate.”

Congressional commentator and alumnus Craig Crawford addresses the Model Senate.
Stetson alumnus and current president of the Florida Senate Mike Haridopolos was one of two guest speakers for Model Senate. Haridopolos entered politics in 2000 and was elected to Florida Senate in 2003.

“He was very personable and humble toward us,” said Stetson student Ady Goss, who portrayed Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota. “One thing he said that I really liked was to not run for office for the title, but to run for government because you care.”

Alumnus Craig Crawford was the other guest speaker, on March 15. Crawford is a congressional expert and analyst who has written several books on political issues. His most recent, The Politics of Life, is about Machiavellian outlooks on current political issues. “His talk addressed some of the media’s responsibilities and actions in the political sphere,” said Brownfield.

On March 16, the student-senators gathered in the Stetson Room for a day-long journey in transforming into their chosen senators and political parties. The morning news and briefing began what became a day of intense debate over bill mock-ups the senators voted up or down. Bills included the highly controversial topics in the Senate of oil and immigration.

After morning Party Caucus and party decisions on the various bills, the senators reconvened in the Stetson Room to begin the debate. Information was provided in colored binders distributed by each party’s executive assistant on the floor. Minority Leader Beth Lukas, who portrayed Mitch Connell, R-Kent., and the Assistant Minority Leader, Robbie Jones, who portrayed Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., would address Madame President and vice versa when talking about the bills. Both parties have a leader and an assistant leader. The language used carefully followed Riddick’s Rules of Procedure and was very professional and traditional.

“I would like to thank Dr. Bailey, Dr. Hill, and Dr. (Anne) Hallum for providing a rare experience to take what we learn in a classroom and apply it in an education simulation such as Model Senate,” said Lukas, who said she enjoyed having two roles as director of Model Senate and also participating as a senator. She hopes next year that Jones, her successor, will be able to get a sitting or recent senator to speak and will carry on this student-led tradition at Stetson.

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