Student Senate works to improve GVSU/Allendale relationship

New External Affairs Committee will work with township residents

By Claire Fodell | 3/9/14 6:38pm

The Student Senate is working to create a better relationship between Grand Valley State University and the residents of Allendale Charter Township. To do so, the Political Affairs Committee is changing its name to the External Affairs Committee and refocusing its goals.

“I think Grand Valley students don’t think of themselves as ‘Allendalers’ in the way that Michigan State University students definitely feel like they’re East Lansing citizens,” said Andrew Plague, president of the PAC.

Plague and other senators said the PAC will be able to accomplish more if it focuses on making changes on the local level rather than trying to make changes on the federal level.

In the past, the PAC has been a driving force in the political education of GVSU students and has helped with voter registration events.

“With times changing in 2014, if students want to know what’s happening in government they can find it online,” Plague said.

Plague said the new focus of the External Affairs Committee will be on creating a community in Allendale where GVSU students can be more involved. However, the committee will still advocate for students to lobby in Lansing and educate students on government activities.

“I think that as Grand Valley grows, creating a more college-friendly town in Allendale is really important,” Plague said.

He added that the volume of students at GVSU makes it important for their voices to be heard outside of campus boundaries.

“There are way more Grand Valley students than there are residents in Allendale, so we need to articulate our interests because businesses should care what we want,” Plague said.

One way Plague has been working to improve the relationship is by having frequent conversations with the Allendale Township supervisor, Jerry Alkema. Plague meets with Alkema two to three times a semester to discuss issues that may have come up with students regarding Allendale Township and to hear about any issues Allendale residents might have with students.

Alkema said he doesn’t know of any complaints from residents, but both he agreed with Plague that strengthening the relationship between local residents and GVSU students would be beneficial.

“We’re trying to create better connections everyday,” Alkema said.

The Student Senate, GVSU administrators and members of the Allendale Charter Township also meet once a semester as part of the “Good Neighbor Committee.” The committee hasn’t met yet this year, but Plague said when it does meet, the Senate plans to bring up the idea of coordinating a town hall meeting with the residents of Allendale at GVSU.

Plague said he hopes the meeting will help local businesses learn to navigate the Laker Jobs page as well as use the Community Service Learning Center to better harness the potential of GVSU students.

Plague and Alkema are also working on a plan to allow GVSU students to join athletic leagues in Allendale parks and recreation. Even though many students stay in Allendale over the summer to take classes and work, GVSU doesn’t have intramural sports that last the entire season. The pair wants to offer students an alternative option.

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