Student government expresses uncertainty about role, explains changes

Sept. 29, 2014

Nick Beadleston
[email protected]

With the semester well underway, students are focused on the education and campus experience owed to them after paying tuition and fees.

Enter the Student Government Association, an organization that, according to their constitution, is “an effective voice in shared governance of the campus.” One of their primary roles is to oversee a portion of student fees.

According to an SGA budget provided to the Scribe, the organization is in charge of over $180,000 this fiscal year.

The Scribe sat down with SGA President Chris Roth, to address their role in the campus community.

“From the very beginning [vice president] Caytes and I kind of approached this year that we weren’t going to come out with an official plan,” Roth said.

“We kind of wanted to see what came along and how things progressed and really pay close attention to what’s going on with the students, and kind of base our decisions off that.”

Roth also spoke to the relationship between SGA and the university administration.

“[The administration] really does solicit our feedback,” Roth said. “So when Caytes and I meet with them, we really do try and bring as much information from the students and SGA that we can present to them.”

“Some of it they’re very interested in,” he said.

Roth said the administration also relies on SGA to help solicit student opinion. He said the administration will “task us to help try and find information on that because I think they know we’re capable of doing it.”

“We really use them for guidance, we kind of want their help in some things,” Roth continued. “We were trying to really figure out the language as far as the student activity fee, and how it came about, and really what its purposes are for.”

Per the SGA constitution, all SGA funding comes from the Student Activity Fee. It also states that “Additional revenue may be generated as approved by the Chancellor in accordance with established university policy.”

The funding section of the organization’s bylaws online directs readers to a blank appendix.

Roth said his administration is working to better understand their role in allocating the student funds available to them.

“We’re kind of working with [the administration] to try and figure out that process and what really it is appropriate for SGA to be spending money on.”

Student understanding of how SGA operates is another important goal for his administration, said Roth.

“[Transparency] is super important, and it’s something I think we’re trying really hard to work on.” “We’re trying really hard to make sure everything is posted on Mountain Lion Connect and the website, and everything is there for students.”

“We’re not here to fool you guys and everything we do is for you,” Roth added. As with last year, how individual SGA senators vote on any bill or motion is not made readily available to students.

“I haven’t even thought about it till you just said that,” Roth said when asked about legislative voting information.

“The system we use is supposed to identify who voted for what. It is our vote and it should be there for public knowledge.”

When asked if there are any plans to make senators’ votes public, Roth responded, “I don’t know the logistics of the system, but at the very least we can have a conversation about it and hopefully get something there,” Roth said.

Regarding the decision to combine the SGA Senate and House, a change that took effect June 1, 2014, Roth said he has seen a smoother legislative process, alleviating miscommunication and attendance problems.

“It’s just better because everybody is together,” Roth said. “As far as getting things done and having information it’s just much quicker. We’re able to address situations in one evening versus two.”

He indicated many other universities have similar, unicameral systems.

In addition to structural changes, this semester SGA also meets at a new time. The Senate holds their meetings on Thursdays from 7:30 p.m. until the University Center closes, if necessary.

The change stemmed from the increased number of Friday morning classes, which put a strain on member attendance, said Roth. Additionally, the Senator of Beth-El was unable to attend meetings as that is when mandatory clinical work is held.

SGA meetings remain open to the public.

“We still have a public forum, so any time people want to come and speak, they are more than welcome to,” said Roth. However, he indicated students rarely attend meetings to express opinions.

“It’s probably something we should look at,” he said. “I think students care, I just think they don’t always know the means of going about it.”

Roth said his organization is working to encourage students to be more vocal and to use SGA as an outlet to voice their concerns.

He indicated increasing the visibility of SGA members through campus events and the informal Gripe Tables is a large part of the plan.

Roth also said SGA will be hosting a carnival themed event at the end of October to raise awareness among students as to the organization’s role. Student clubs will play a central role in the event.

“We’re going to use it to help get students involved, but also have them provide feedback for SGA,” said Roth.

“Caytes and I really want to do a better job as far as like reaching out to students, that really [is] the goal,” he continued. “We want people to know who SGA is, what we stand for and how we can help them.”