The speaker behind the senate: Britney Sharp

Just a Sophomore, and Senate Speaker, it looks like Britney Sharp has a bright student government career ahead of her for the remainder of her undergraduate degree. “I do not like it when people say, ‘you cannot change the world,” she said.

Going government

Last week marked the first session of ASSOU senate’s 2018-2019 academic year. With seven vacant seats and no Administrative Director, the senate has a lot on its plate now. Luckily, the new Speaker of the Senate Britney Sharp is there to keep it running smooth and, as she likes to say, ‘professional.’

Raised in Anaheim, California, a city of 336,265 people, Sharp knew that when she came to Southern Oregon University (SOU), a relatively small school, she would have to “be on the top” in community and campus leadership. She has worked hard to reach that goal.

Sharp joined student government her freshman year as the Social Sciences Senator. She volunteered for the Oregon Student Public Interest Response Group, or OSPIRG, on their No-LNG Pipeline Campaign and for Oregon Student Association’s Vote for Vote Campaign, as part of her field work for Senator. This year she also participated in Week of Welcome events.

In the future, Sharp would like to be a part of changing the world through a role in either law enforcement or the CIA. She is very interested in the problems in law enforcement hiring and training, and the lack of regulation in some departments’ hiring process for police officers. She gets inspiration from her dad who works as a police officer.

Change starts small

For now, Sharp understands that change starts at local levels. As a Senator last year, sharp was a representative of all social science majors, which is very different to her role this year. Her job as Social Science Senator was to best represent social science majors and bring issues to their attention that they would care about, which tended to be ones affecting their major and classes, such as tuition.

“Really my constituents and different issues came about maybe in tuition. For example, I managed what the majors would want me to vote on, and if I was in class with them, I would bring up a discussion on ‘this is going through the senate this week; what is everyone’s opinion on it?’”

As Speaker of the Senate, her constituency is the senators themselves, which means she does not travel to classes or meet with division directors. It is all politics she works with.

“I  am a representative of the Senators, so I run the meeting, and I represent those Senators. They are my constituents–the ones who represent everyone else”

But it is not just the representation that is different. It is how that representation affects her influence. In other words, she is the senators’ role model, their resource for help on parliamentary procedure, and a general contact for Legislative Branch questions.

“I keep the meetings according to code of conduct and the bylaws and all that, and very strict, professional and timely… Basically, I am the resource for the senators, and I am their representative, but I am also an easy contact for the legislative branch in general–to get through to us.”

Another key difference is that she cannot vote in Senate unless there is a tie which she has to break. This provides a  source of nervousness for Sharp because, she says, she is a very opinionated person, and it will be hard having to reserve her thoughts on issues and being unbiased. This aspect of Speaker of the Senate’s role is also an equal blessing.

“It sounds ironic, but I am excited to lead without a voice.”

Sharp wants to be a leader by opening the floor for other senators to be heard, by giving equal measure to all opinions and by inspiring senators to be the best that they can. Sharp leads through a balance of humility and passion.

Addressing needs

Sharp did not address any personal opinions or issues, but explained that her opinions don’t matter. “When people will come to me with their needs, those are the ones [problems] that I think we should be addressing.”

Just because she must give all opinions equal measure, though, does not mean that Sharp cannot ever let her opinion matter. She can encourage the Senate to vote one way or another.

In the particular instance of the Campus Blood Drive ban last year, Sharp said it was difficult to decide how to vote because she had many constituents who did not want it.

“I also knew how gender equity is an important value for this campus, and I wanted to uphold that value,” she said.

Sharp explained that she puts thought into upholding the university’s values and the professionalism of Associated Students of Southern Oregon University (ASSOU).

She explained a worry that students might be unaware of what student government does, and this may affect the allotment of student’s money and resources.

“Especially for incoming freshman,” she said. “When you think of student government you tend to think of ASB and making posters and planning events.” But that cannot be farther from the truth. The biggest role student government has is managing the student fees paid by students with their tuition.

“We manage the $4.2 million that we get in student fees a year, and we divide it among all the student resources. We are the head facilitator for what is important to students, and that is why we have a representative for each major and each resource center”

Applications to get involved with senate close Friday.

Britney Sharp can be contacted through email or in person during her office hours Mondays 1 pm – 3 pm in SOURS


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