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A Stetson Tradition: Model Senate

The Floyd M. Riddick Model U.S. Senate is the oldest collegiate-level model senate in the nation. It is also in our own backyard.

A classroom filled with students acting like it's the U.S. Senate

Stetson’s 1973 Model Senate

Established by then-political science student John Fraser in 1971 with professor and founder of the Political Science Department, T. Wayne Bailey, Ph.D., Model Senate has become a lasting feature of Stetson University. March 22-24, 2018 will mark the 47th year — registration has opened.

“You have 100 students from multiple schools and multiple states come together to simulate the real United States Senate,” said David Hill, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the Political Science Department. “And they do just as good a job.”

For three days, registered students are given the role of a current U.S. Senator to act. This role includes working in their senator’s actual committee — from Foreign Relations to Judiciary — debating over which legislation to carry out.

“The goal is for a more in-depth look at how the U.S. Senate operates,” said Sarah Hollmann, political science senior and student coordinator of the Model Senate. “In such tumultuous political times, it’s really important that we learn how our democracy functions. Understanding it will make you a much more informed citizen and a much more informed voter.”

While students can select their preferences in what role they want to play, Hollmann stresses that the selection process is about finding a good fit, which might not be the senator who matches the participant’s personal political party or affiliation.

Group shot of seven students in front of the CUB.

Participants in the 2017 Stetson Model Senate.

“Not everyone can have their first choice senator because then everybody would be Marco Rubio or Bernie Sanders, but everyone has a place,” said Hollman. Playing a senator with opposing views than one’s own can actually be advantageous. “Not only is it easier to come up with counter-arguments, learning to compromise democratically expands your own worldview.”

“It’s an exposure to the real world of politics,” said Hill. Though Model Senate aims to teach students interested in politics and government, the learning experience of compromise is not exclusive to political science students.

As a uniquely student-run event, Hollmann’s role also includes reaching out to visiting schools across the country, including universities in Florida, Massachusets and Colorado, to participate.

“I’ve connected with people I wouldn’t have even met otherwise,” said Hollman on her own Model Senate experience.

Group shot of 10 students in front of the CUB.

Participants in the 2017 Stetson Model Senate

Hill, over his eleven years as director, even recalls a marriage coming out of a Model Senate year.

“Every year I’ve seen a student rise to the occasion, flourish in the environment and learn something about themselves,” said Hill. “It’s an entirely student-run event, and that’s what makes it good.”

Register before Feb. 16, 2018. Cost is $25 for Stetson students and $40 for non-Stetson institutions. This cost includes provided meals and end of ceremony banquet. For any financial difficulties, you are urged to contact Glenna Roof at groof@stetson.edu. If interested in joining the Model Senate Planning Committee, contact Sarah Hollmann at shollmann@stetson.edu.

-Veronica Faison