By Janey Gemmell
This semester, club representatives are no longer required to attend weekly Student Government Association meetings. The SGA is dedicated to helping students voice their concerns in order to improve campus life for both commuters and residents, and receive the appropriate training to become the best student leaders they can be. Meeting attendance in the past has been mandatory for every club on campus. So, what gives?
Michael Berthel, the director of campus life, says the plan is not to disperse SGA and close students off from the board, but to expand the organization and alter the structure of how certain tasks are carried out. After a survey was conducted at the end of the spring semester, SGA representatives concluded that the weekly meetings, which required mandatory attendance by student organizations and clubs, were not serving their purpose.
There are about 70 clubs and organizations on campus, including fraternities and sororities. Each club would go to weekly SGA meetings to receive campus information and updates, but most felt that they weren’t getting anything of substance out of the meetings. More felt they had little to no participation in these meetings. The solution was simple, according to Berthel: “If there are important matters, like forms due or club training, student organizations will attend specific meetings for those purposes as a requirement.”
Nicole Balnis, the President of SGA, stated, “We no longer have our general meetings. We will still be having our Town Hall meetings [no set dates], and the Dean of Students, Abby van Vlerah, will be having a table in Hillwood once a week [so that students can] come voice [their] opinions and concerns.” Going forward, SGA will only hold mandatory meetings when it makes sense.
The make-up of the executive board of SGA will change as well. “In the past, it’s been a few senators, a president, a vice president, a trea- surer [a parliamentarian, senators, and a few committee positions.] This year, student government offers more positions,” Berthel said.
The current SGA board, elected by past members of SGA and other voters, consists of: Nicole Balnis, President; Kim Blaskey, Vice President; Jenna Maggio, Senate Advisor; Stephanie Fabrizio, Secre- tary; Brianna Pisano, Treasurer; Jonathan Chambers, Parliamentarian; Kherefa Parsons, Kristen Manno, Michael Grossman, Samantha Sterling, Taimur Bhudda, and Jackie Jurado, Senators.
Student government will also expand committee positions for residents, commuters, undergraduates and graduates alike. A commit- tee position allows a student to handle a certain job, be it transportation, food, or campus activities, and hear student concerns related to their po- sition. They act as a representative for the students speaking to a proper authority, like dining services or administration, so that the concerns can be addressed. The new position of class president will also be added to SGA, allowing student representation from freshmen to the graduate level.
There will be new opportunities to run and vote for each SGA po- sition. SGA is interested in holding student elections each spring and fall semester to generate more participation in the process, and to allow students to get a feel for the people who will represent them. Those in- terested can hold their positions for a semester and are then welcome to run again. The idea is that the elections will generate more publicity, and thus students would be more willing to participate in student govern- ment meetings and events.
An important function of student government is hosting town hall meetings, which allows the entire campus community to come to- gether to speak to university officials about any concerns or requests to improve campus life. In the past, town hall meetings were held once or twice a semester, and were not very well advertised.
Berthel intends to have more town hall meetings per semester, so students feel as though they are being heard. Berthel said if students want something, they feel passionate about something, or want to ad- vocate a certain service on campus, they are welcome to come to the meetings or general SGA meetings, and voice those concerns. No town hall meeting has been held yet this semester according to Balnis, and the dates have yet to be set in stone.
Berthel also intends to streamline the process for starting a club, making it simpler and more hands on for interested students. In the past, a student interested in starting a club had to answer questions about their intentions to start a club at three SGA meetings in a row, fill out a variety of forms, and secure a location before they could even hold a club meeting. The lengthy process has now been expedited: students interested in starting a new club on campus will be able to talk to SGA representatives, and be led through the processes of becoming a student leader.
“We go to different club meetings and let them know if they need us,” said Samantha Sterling, a senator representing the transfer student community. “There is a month-long trial period, and the student reports back to [us to] show their progress,” Sterling added. “The SGA sends its senators to potential club meetings to get a feel for how the clubs are run. This way, the students are able to have an experience running meet- ings, advertising, holding events and fundraising; all components of a successful club.”
Berthel stated that these changes in SGA will not happen over- nigh, but will come in time. “I am very excited about all of SGAs chang- es,” Balnis said. “We are creating a new, better SGA that will hopefully make a better experience for everyone on campus. As President, I want everyone to know that I will always be available for anyone who wants to speak their voice. That is my job, to work for the students.”
SGA meets on Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m. in the Hillwood Commons Cinema. SGA representatives can answer any student concerns and questions. All students are welcome to attend, and are free to contact SGA at firstname.lastname@example.org.