BY IRINI BROM – CENTO WRITER
Let’s talk about something completely uncontroversial, unanimously loved, and irrevocably revered — the government. And not just any government: Centre’s on-campus government, also known as the Student Government Association (or SGA). What is SGA exactly? What does it do? What is its purpose?
“SGA, per our constitution, exists to ‘enhance the quality of life for all students on Centre’s campus,” Student Body President Thomas Becker said, who took office in May of 2014. “As far as our responsibilities, we are charged with holding open meetings, serving as a forum for student interests, initiating legislation, undertaking a wide array of projects, and allocating funding to every student organization on campus. We are the official voice of the student body to the leadership of the College.”
Becker’s four years at Centre showed him many accomplishments of SGA that he refers to proudly.
“SGA is very intentional about improving our campus. In my four short years here, we’ve been responsible for some noticeable changes for convenience’s sake, like more water bottle filling stations in buildings across campus or better access to chargers both in the library and the Campus Center. And you know the ‘Do Your Best, Be Your Best, No Regrets’ display above the outdoor classroom next to Young? That was provided by SGA. The Monarch Butterfly Way-station between Young and Cooper-Ganfield was an SGA project too. Besides these visible changes to our campus, we’ve been able to pass legislation and provide other services to students.”
Unsurprisingly, there are people who disagree with Becker’s take on our precious congress here on campus, as there always seems to be when government and policy is involved. One example of this is found in senior Matt Gilbert who served on SGA during his sophomore and junior years, and believes that although SGA does do a lot of good, it does not reach out to the student body as well as it should.
“Unfortunately, many students feel like SGA is not active and does not represent their concerns,” Gilbert said. “There is also the impression that members of SGA think of themselves as better than their peers. SGA needs to be there for students instead of just regulating or telling students and student groups what rules to follow … SGA needs to be more accessible. From being in SGA, I know SGA is active and that the people in it do care about representing their peers and take their job seriously. I think the impression can only be changed if SGA takes [certain] steps.”
So what we have here is a governing body that doesn’t listen to the hopes and desire of the people it is trying to represent — sounds familiar. But does SGA really take no steps to hear the student body? Becker says no.
“We have SGA Days where people are welcome to fill our comment cards, and we have an e-mail account that has received a number of great suggestions. All members of SGA are also more than willing to take suggestions and bring them up in our meetings. That said, I know that there are people who simply don’t have a desire to sit there and write, type, or say their thoughts. I get that. But I really want everyone’s voices to be heard, and SGA is the forum for that.”
But is there anything of real importance to “come before the court,” as it were? Any sort of conflict or disagreement that SGA should get involved in and take a leadership role in resolving? Well, unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of weeks, you’ve heard of the changes that were made to the rules about having a guest for senior week—the change being that no guests are allowed.
This little tidbit of information was quietly slid into an email sent out to the student body on one non-descript Thursday and was common knowledge to everyone and their parents by that afternoon. It was the talk of the campus, with students asking: How could they do this? How did this happen? Why weren’t we told that this was coming to a vote? The short answer — it wasn’t. Not even members of SGA knew that this new rule was going to be instated.
Even though SGA didn’t know this was in the works, were they free from all scrutiny and questions from the student body? Not even close. Many students believed that SGA should have been in the process of making this decision. Others felt as though the whole student body, SGA included, was hoodwinked by this whole process.
Regardless of how it came about, many students feel as though SGA has a responsibility to do something now. Gilbert is one of those students.
“I initially did not feel let down by SGA, simply because it is impossible to take action if they were not informed about it in the first place,” Gilbert said. “However, I am surprised that no public statement has been made by SGA regarding the topic — especially since their purpose is to represent the student body. Even though I know the President was not on campus at the time, I expected other members of SGA to step up [and] for this to occur soon after the policy change was announced and so many students expressed concern. I know that a meeting is going to occur between a small group of seniors, including the President of SGA, and Kendrick, but I believe SGA should vote on and issue a resolution requesting for a change in the policy and reaffirming the importance/significance of Senior Week for final farewells, etc. especially since, again, their purpose is to represent the study body. Additionally, I think the Student Affairs Committee of SGA should get involved and see how an agreement can be reached between the SLO and the senior class.”
It looks as though only time will tell if SGA takes any action with this particular issue. It’s safe to say that no matter what SGA chooses to do, though, there will always be someone, somewhere, who thinks they should have handled it differently. As Becker says, “We are not an organization that is free of controversy. But I think what we represent as a whole, the idea that we as a student body have the ability to have a tangible and lasting say in what we see as an ever-improving Centre experience, is pretty remarkable. That’s something that we can all get behind.”