Wednesday, April 18, marked the end of the 2006-2007 term for the Student Government Association (SGA). Since late September, I have reported on a total of 20 SGA meetings. Having spent the greater part of the academic year as an objective observer, I have come to form certain opinions based on my experiences with SGA.
It seems as though students at the College have become disillusioned with SGA. This is clearly illustrated by the recent election. Out of the numerous seats within SGA that were up for re-election, only three were contested. Others within the executive board and the senate remain empty. Why are students suddenly uninterested in SGA? Has the general overwhelming sense of political apathy at the College contaminated school politics as well?
I would argue that certain members within the senate and executive board seem to have forgotten that SGA is indeed student government, and not merely an extension of the administration. I was enthused to see candidates like Dan Beckelman, former vice president of Administration and Finance, and Michael Strom, recently elected Alternate Student Trustee, campaign upon platforms of strong student advocacy.
Thanks to Beckelman and Strom, with a tremendous amount of assistance from Daria Silvestro, former Student Trustee, students now have a lobbying voice in Trenton that will fight for the restoration of state funding that the College both needs and deserves. Chris Rindosh, former vice president of Student Services, also stands apart as an advocate for students. Rindosh’s numerous endeavors, including Finals Fest, The Pulse and the Resolution Regarding Residence Hall Cleanliness Upon Move-In, have all been aimed at improving the lives of students at the College.
Regretfully, the same cannot be said for all members of the executive board. If anyone were to re-examine all 20 “Eye on SGA” articles from Sept. 26 through April 18, they might notice the conspicuous absence of executive president Christine Cullen’s voice from the record. Cullen sought re-election to the presidency, running on a year of experience and “good working relationships” with College administrators.
These “good relationships” can be attributed to two factors. Cullen’s administration has certainly been approachable, professional and friendly. This year’s executive board was without any overt signs of strain or dissention, and the members functioned cohesively. Certainly, College administrators must have found working with the Cullen administration to be pleasant. Unfortunately, the second factor for the “good relationships” is Cullen’s unidentifiable stance on the hard issues.
As previously mentioned, Cullen is nowhere to be found in the coverage of any SGA general body meetings. This academic year, SGA was presented with several controversial events at the College. Early in the fall semester, the actions of the Office of Campus Police were questioned, and students filed complaints that their rights were being violated. A pipe burst in New Residence Hall on Feb. 6, damaging student property and displacing residents. These residents were offered bare mattresses without pillows, sheets or blankets to sleep on in Brower Student Center. Most recently, the administration revoked the right of 21-year-old seniors to consume alcohol during Senior Week, indirectly resulting in the cancellation of the event.
These events were opportunities for Cullen and other silent SGA and executive board members to do what they were elected to do – advocate on behalf of the students. It must be conceded that attempts were made. The ad hoc Committee on Campus Police was formed in response to the complaints and a report was written, but with executive vice president James Gant leaving office, it is doubtful that the controversial report will be unveiled anytime soon.
Additionally, I must commend the efforts of the Senior Class Council in fighting for an enjoyable Senior Week. Perhaps with the backing of a more animate senate and president, its efforts would have succeeded. Thankfully, SGA is on good terms with the administration. SGA behaved itself and nodded complacently or averted its eyes while the administration made serious mistakes. It is unfortunate, however, that somewhere along the way, the rights and well-being of the students were forgotten. From the examples of some of our elected student leaders, we can all learn to bow down to the whims of those more powerful than us and to accept the status quo.
One particular Wednesday in late November nearly destroyed my faith in SGA. On this afternoon, heated debate ensued throughout the senate, the likes of which I had yet to see. The discussion ran around a half-hour and levels of frustration were high. This was, up until that point, the most animated SGA had been all year. The cause for such discord: the senate was angry about the design of the SGA sweatshirts.
Much good has come out of SGA in past years. Open seats in the senate remain; they just need to be filled by motivated students who are willing to speak their minds and advocate on behalf of other students. It is imperative that we no longer accept such standards in our leadership and actively work to make change.