Evolution of the Student Voice

By Jann Holland

Politics, or “the art or science of government,” eventually becomes part of any organization comprised of more than one individual. So, it was only fitting that in 1892, the Student Senate — the formal organization of the whole student body — was established at Drury College.

The 1915 annual catalog description for the Student Senate read:

“An advisory committee consisting of two students from each class is elected at the beginning of the College year to represent the students in matters of general discipline. While the committee has no recognized authority, its opinions and advice are of value and weight in all questions that pertain to the mutual relations existing between Faculty and students.”

The Drury Story notes that in the early days when class sizes were relatively small, students from all classes were typically enrolled in the same sequence of courses. “Each class had its own organization, with a full slate of officers, and its own sense of identity, even its own yells. Class loyalty was strong.” In 1907, it became established that the senior class president would also serve as the president of the student body.

In 1915-16, the college catalog description was revised to read:

“The Student Senate, composed of nine upperclassmen elected by their respective classes and three members of the faculty, aims to promote, in general, by all honorable means, the welfare of the college, to uphold high standards of scholarship and of character and to maintain a good understanding and cordial relation between the students and faculty.”

As evidenced in the evolution of its catalog description, the Senate was originally established “with no recognized authority,” and a focus on discipline. It was later revised to reflect a focus on “the welfare of the college.” Today’s description conveys a much stronger voice and a more collaborative spirit as evidenced in the wording “to address the rights and concerns of the…student body.”

“The Student Government Association (SGA) of Drury University has been established as a forum to address the rights and concerns of the entire day-school student body. Using critical thought, creative problem solving, and insight gained through contact with peers, they strive to enhance and better the student experience of those they represent.”

As with all governing bodies, the (now) SGA has experienced highs and lows in its political power, organization and impact throughout Drury’s history. The presence of a student governing body, however, is mission critical for a liberal arts institution. By empowering students to convene, be heard and effect change, all students have the opportunity to enhance and improve the student experience.

Did you know?

  • During the time when students were protesting the dress code in the Commons, women would pencil in lines up the back of their legs to simulate stockings, which were part of the dress code requirement.
  • Marie Summers ’25 was the first student body president.
  • From 1892-1919, the sophomore class established the rules of conduct for incoming freshmen.


This was the first major project that Student Senate initiated. As Drury’s curriculum expanded, so did its organized activities. So in the spring of 1915, the Student Senate proposed development of a point system designed to limit participation in out-of-class activities. The Senate proposed that each student be limited to a total of 25 points, with 15 points reflecting a normal academic course load. The proposal was endorsed by all classes and adopted by the faculty that fall.


The Senate created the preferential primary voting system for electing class officers, and was also empowered to serve as the social committee for all-college social events.


Conflicts between the Senate and active campus organizations like fraternities and sororities weakened the Senate, causing many to question its reason for being.


An audit performed by the Senate revealed an interest in campus life among ordinary students. As a result, the Senate plans an all-college dance, stunt night and more organized election procedures.


The Senate assumed responsibility for most of the college’s patriotic projects. Among other projects, they sponsored a “Civilian Defense Registration Program” and later held a “War Stamp Week.”


The Senate began assuming responsibility for resolving major campus issues.


The Senate tried unsuccessfully to revive the intercollegiate football program that had been disbanded in the 1930’s. Later that same year, the Senate held the first Big Name Band Dance, bringing the Woody Herman Band to campus. In later years, Les Brown, Tommy Dorsey and Stan Kenton would perform on Drury’s campus.





The Senate helped alleviate mounting frustration over poor food service and the strictly enforced formal dress code for the Commons. In 1950, the formal dress code was discontinued, and in 1954 a new dietician and head waiter as well as new kitchen equipment were brought to campus.


As tensions escalated during the Vietnam War, the Senate made it a priority to protect and advance the rights of students. Instigated by a threat of censorship with the Mirror, the Senate established an official, non-censorship policy for the Mirror, which was also extended to guest speakers.


Sue West, the first woman student body president since 1943, submitted recommendations to allow women to live off campus, to return to campus after hours at their discretion, and to be extended key privileges. Deans Karen Sweeney and Curtis Strube approved these requests. Key privileges were later dropped in favor of an after hours security guard.


The Student Senate began to have broader involvement, reaching out to the faculty and staff to collaborate and work as a more unified team. They invited faculty to attend Senate meetings. The Senate leadership began attending the board of trustees meetings and in turn, they were invited to attend the open faculty meetings.


The University radio station KDRU, the Mirror, the Sou’wester yearbook and the Student Union Board were all considered subsidiaries in that they largely relied on funding from Student Senate to operate. During this time, budgets were scrutinized with the Sou’wester being called into question. The compromise was for students to pay a nominal fee to offset some of the costs. A few years later, the yearbook was discontinued.


Responding to national trends, Student Senate President Bob Zipf initiated the name change from Student Senate to Student Government Association.


Led by SGA President, Zac Tusinger and architecture student Donnie Rodgers, an SGA committee developed a plan to renovate the lower level of Findlay Student Center to become a true student center. Completed during winter break, the Down Under was transformed into a coffeehouse-style, central hangout. The project also paved the way for SGA to fund other “renovation” projects on campus.


In response to the growing interest in sustainability, President Sellars formed the President’s Council on Sustainability to evaluate and recommend ways to implement more sustainable practices at Drury. Spearheaded by Dr. Wendy Anderson and members of Think Green, SGA passed a resolution requiring that a portion of student fees be used by the Council to fund sustainability initiatives. Examples of campus projects funded by the $20 per student fee include: bike paths, solar panels, DCycle bike rental shop, sponsorships for speakers and panels, and recycling bins.