In running Student Government Senate meetings, passing bills and trying to ensure progress is made to benefit the campus population, the speaker of the Senate has a busy job.
Jeffrey Sznapstajler, aided by his trusted second-in-command, Ivann Anderson, the speaker pro tempore, leads 55 members in the Senate meeting, including 45 senators, Student Government executive members, advisors and other liaisons. They have helped the Senate to pass 21 bills, the average for the beginning of the spring semester, and oversaw the passage of five Category-D bills that recommend that university administration take action on certain issues. The Category-D bills he has helped to pass include recommendations to install an educational aquarium in the University Center, retrofit the campus with environmentally-conscious light-emitting diode lighting, increase funding for Distraction Magazine and Ibis Yearbook through referendums and modify the school’s absence policy.
“As members of Student Government, it is important to give back,” Sznapstajler said. “To represent people to the best of our ability and to see that our projects get done.”
Having known him from past elections, Anderson said the only surprise about Sznapstajler this year was his upbeat mood.
“Working with Jeff is awesome. Having known him only through Senate prior to elections, I would have never thought that he could be so funny. Jeff always brings a great time,” Anderson said. “Jeff is definitely one of the most dedicated individuals I know. Senate was placed in great hands when Jeff took over.”
Sznapstajler has been involved in Senate since his freshman year, when he started off as the Hecht Residential College (HRC) senator.
“I wanted to be involved on campus. It was something I have never done before, I have been involved in high school,” Sznapstajler said. “So I thought, might as well try it, and Senate has always been a good fit for me. I love Senate. It was about representing people and I knew I would have good ideas to bring to and from my constituents.”
In his first year as a Senator, Sznapstajler was responsible for getting a barricade placed around the university seal in front of the Richter Library. It was one of the first bills he wrote with University Affairs and it was passed and implemented quickly. While that was memorable, the work he remembers the most came when, as Fraternity Row senator during his sophomore and junior years, he and three other Senators were on the committee to revise the school Constitution.
“Working the whole last year, for two hours a week, we would comb through the entire Constitution and make numerous edits,” Sznapstajler said. “One year later, we have a better, updated and revised Constitution. The amount of time it took and all the hard work made it very memorable.”
Another bill he helped to pass as a Fraternity Row senator focused on increasing the safety on San Amaro Drive. After observation and research, he and the senate’s safety committee brought their compiled findings to the city.
“Fraternity Row is on San Amaro Drive, making this issue an important one for me,” Sznapstajler said. “I worked on it in my sophomore year and two years later, this is finally becoming a reality. We are starting to see major steps.”
Spending time in the Senate only reaffirmed his aspiration to lead it, as did the time he spent looking up to his predecessors.
“I knew I wanted to be speaker for a while,” Sznapstajler said, before mentioning how he was influenced by the first speaker he encountered in Senate, Parker Barnett. “[He] seemed like a cool guy and just made me think that it would be great to be the speaker. I knew that if I was speaker, like the others before me, I would be able to spread my love for Senate to the other senators.”
Sznapstajler ran against six other candidates for the role of speaker and won the majority of votes. Winning was not the hard part; what was more daunting was the challenge of succeeding the previous speaker, Brianna Hathaway, who is now the Student Government president. But according to Hathaway, he has nothing to worry about.
“Jeff has done a great job as my successor. I have worked in Senate with him since my freshman year when I was freshman senator and he was the HRC senator,” Hathaway said. “I am so proud of how far he has come and believe he has and will continue to bring an atmosphere of excellence and family to senate.”
It is the atmosphere that Sznapstajler brings to Senate that has been met with approval from the other senators and administrative members. Senator Jacob Rudolph of the College of Arts and Sciences used the words “approachable” and “committed” to describe Sznapstajler.
Brandon Gross, the associate director of the Student Center Complex and a former speaker of the Senate shared the same sentiment and commented on how Sznapstajler’s own style works.
“He has a bit of an informal demeanor and it works well with Senate,” Gross said. “When the time comes to take control, he does that in his own way. He keeps conversations fluid and involves other senators.”
For Sznapstajler, his first semester has successful in the eyes of his peers. His predecessors know that he will do just as well this spring semester.
“Jeff is honestly one of the most dedicated and honest people that I have met at my time at UM,” Hathaway said. “He works hard to better the student body. His dedication and love for this campus shows in everything that he does and I am so proud of all that he has done for our school.”