In the Oct 10 issue of the S&B, a quarter-year review of SGA showed an organization hampered by inexperience, yet promising increased productivity, as members grew accustomed to their roles in SGA. With the fall semester over and spring semester underway, SGA has excelled in certain areas and struggled in others.
A general lack of experience continued to be cited as the main problem throughout the remainder of last semester. “I don’t think there was good leadership or direction,” said Jamaland Senator Dylan O’Donoghue ’11. “And there wasn’t a lot of experience.”
At the start of the year, the 10 members of Cabinet had a combined two years of SGA experience, and only three of the 18 elected senators had previous experience on Joint Board.
For the majority of the year, opinions were few and far between during Joint Board sessions, which, according to Loosehead Senator Phil Hagen ’10, decreased from an average length of over three hours in ’07-’08 to about an hour and a half this past semester. “The absolute lack of contention over any issue is kind of shocking,” Hagen said. “I don’t know how many times there has actually been a question of how the votes actually going to end up.”
SGA Vice President of Academic Affairs Julie Hoye ’09 said the minimal discussion at Joint Board raised questions as to whether the meetings were for genuinely addressing student needs or simply passing SGA-borne resolutions. “In years past we’ve had the asshole or the devil’s advocate that sits there and gets people thinking,” Hoye said. “That has been a missing component of [last semester’s] Joint Board.”
But some were quick to point out that this year’s SGA Cabinet and Joint Board arrived with a purposefully more relaxed attitude than last year, and that comparisons between this year’s and the previous year’s SGA, headed by former SGA President Megan Goering ’08, were unfair. “A lot of people really didn’t like last year–they thought it was too aggressive and too contentious,” said Hagen. “The cabinet came in saying they were going to be a different SGA than last year.”
SGA Vice President of Student Affairs John Burrows ’10 defined his duty as a cabinet member to balance working on long-term projects and daily duties, including working with administration and College committees. “I’m trying to balance all that committee work against all those long term projects,” Burrows said. Burrows said he currently serves on at least eight committees with other members of the College.
Burrows said many goals mentioned in his campaign, such as improving student wellness and rescheduling academic breaks, were in their beginning phases. “Especially towards the end of [last] semester you’re seeing a lot of projects started or even worked on or accomplished,” Burrows said.
Burrows said that his goals “have changed as new issues have arisen, i.e. the issues encountered with Student Affairs as well as students’ frustration being unable to communicate with administrators.”
SGA President Neo Morake ’09, who listed diversifying the curriculum and revamping the off-campus living application in her original campaign statement, echoed a sentiment similar to Burrows. Morake stated that work had begun on the curriculum near the end of last semester and was well underway, while work had yet to begin on reworking off-campus applications.
“It was harder to focus on [my goals] at the beginning of the semester only because [it took] time to figure out the role of President and dealing with all the other issues that were happening like the alcohol poisoning, our response to that and student staff concerns,” Morake said. “I was focusing on leftover projects and whatever else was coming up.”
According to former SGA President Chris Hall ’07, many of the projects completed during his time on Cabinet were not sparked until “going into winter break.” SGA’s projects in the ’06-’07 academic year included adding the second vice president position to cabinet, creating the STIFUND and working on an in-house drug policy.
O’Donoghue said that growing experience amongst senators and emerging leadership by cabinet members, specifically Burrows, led to more proactive Joint Board sessions over the last weeks of the semester.
“In the beginning we were all just sort of aimlessly wandering around like ‘What are we doing?’,” O’Donoghue said. “But by the end it felt like we were doing the right thing … people were actually thinking up proposals and dealing with real issues.”
Hoye also said accomplishments such as encouraging and securing student spots on the Committee on Academic Standing, which deals with academic probation and dishonesty, are evidence of progress in SGA last semester.
“It’s the only committee that deals directly with student issues that didn’t have a student representative,” Hoye said. “We’re going to have two students on trial membership … and the goal is to get students on the full committee [next fall].”
Other successes included helping retain funding for the School of the Americas trip, reworking student group transportation policy and holding the well-attended forum between students, faculty and Student Affairs.
With the new semester, new Senators must be elected to Joint Board. Harry Krejsja ’10, a former Senator who is advising the Election Board, said that many of the problems from last semester’s Election Board that some blamed for early problems in SGA had been compensated for.
“A bunch of [previous Election Board] members have come back from abroad, and we’ve trained new people,” Krejsa said. “We’re going to leave behind a guide on how to run elections and not just assume that the people from this semester will remember next time around.”
Senator applications are available until Sunday, Jan 25, and elections will be held Tuesday, Jan 27.