Keeping Up with the SGA/by Rachel Smith
The Student Government Association has changed drastically from what students have known it to be. What was once merely a place for student advocacy is now an association with an active voice and effective action for the student body.
While many still consider SGA a senate club, it is now a Student Leadership Council, a body of representatives. This change was initiated by the installation of a new constitution, enacted spring 2020. The most notable feature is its four newly-formed committees, created to cultivate improvement ideas for all sections of campus. These committees cover Campus Life, Auxiliary Services, MC Experience, and Academic Affairs. Beyond legislative changes, the Representative and Executive Council of SGA have been up to some interpersonal advancements and campus transformation.
Cole Benoit, the Campus Life Committee head, spoke on how his committee is geared towards helping students. Benoit said, “We listen to students’ opinions and find things we can physically fix on campus.” SGA is here for the big picture needs and concerns of students, but they are also here to fight the little battles. “The printer in the commons is what I was most proud of [last semester],” Benoit said. “We had a lot of positive feedback from that.” With the constant change happening on campus, Benoit emphasized that it is just as important for the committee to listen to students’ responses to their actions. Looking ahead, he revealed, “We plan to reformat the furniture in the commons so all seating has plugs. We’re also working on bringing in new lobby furniture within the next few weeks.”
The body of SGA is guided by the Executive Council, a staff committed to serve as an ambassador between our campus leaders like President Dr. Blake Thompson, Dr. Jonathan Ambrose, Dr. Keith Elder, and the rest of the representative body. The Executive Council consists of President Michael Washington, Vice President Damon Wright, Chief Justice Lawson Stewart, Business Manager Josh Holloway, and Chief of Staff Sam Hughes.
When asked what SGA’s biggest accomplishment was, the Council unanimously agreed, “Working with administration in regards to COVID guidelines and regulations. We managed to negotiate several reductions in the guidelines with the people in charge.” This cabinet initiated the “Mask Up” campaign that reopened visitation in dorm rooms. This campaign was instrumental in keeping students on campus. The Executive Council explained, “Not only us at SGA, but the campus as a whole did a fantastic job of abiding by the regulations set forth by administration, and because of that we were allowed to stay on campus the entirety of last semester. That’s not something many other colleges can say.”
SGA is more than just the leadership within, it’s a body of driven individual representatives of the four classes and the different organizations on campus. Jonathan Hestres-Rivera, sophomore representative serving on the MC Experience committee, said, “The Picnic on the Quad event we held to promote the to-go option in the cafeteria was my favorite thing. I got to talk with students and got to meet them.” Hestres-Rivera explained, “I try to be an outlet for students and fix problems that face our students even if it’s something like getting the trash taken out in the dorms on the weekends.” But change can only be made if students communicate their concerns with their appointed peers. As Grace Jennings, the Student Life Center representative, puts it, “We always strive to improve students’ experience. We welcome your input and help.”
SGA took winter break to initiate some improvements on campus. Benoit, on behalf of the Campus Life Committee, said that over the break, “We initiated the repainting of faculty parking lines to prevent students from getting unforeseen tickets.” The Auxiliary Services Committee reminds the student body, “We created the to-go option in the cafeteria and promoted it with an SGA picnic.” This event kickstarted the semester and got the ball rolling for this committee to instigate the opening of study rooms across campus for finals preparation and even the reopening of 1826 for the semester’s remainder. While 1826 is currently closed, the Auxiliary Committee members are looking ahead with the project.
The Student Government Association changes as the student body changes. This council of representatives serves to adapt to the impending needs of the individual student and improve their everyday lives, but they cannot do that without the recommendations of the students they serve.