Welcome Back, St. Mary’s!
Although the weather has been rather bleak lately, it is heartening to see that people’s enthusiasm for returning to our beautiful campus has not been diminished. I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on the accomplishments of the Student Government Association thus far. In the next edition of the Point News, I will lay out some of the goals Vice President Becky White and I have for this semester.
This fall was truly a banner semester for the SGA. We undertook meaningful reform of the bylaws to ensure that the Finance Board, Programs Board, Student Investment Group, and SGA committees were streamlined. The Student Life committee, for example, is now directly linked to Dean Ifill’s Advisory Council, establishing a pipeline for student ideas and concerns to be channeled into legislation and action. We also added a bylaw that set forth the structure of the Bike Shop and ensured that it is permanently funded into the future. I would like to particularly thank Nathan Smith for his work on making this a reality. His leadership of and advocacy for the Bike Shop, ensures the Bike Shop will no longer face funding uncertainty each year and that student jobs
will be protected.
Another major change was the upgrade of the Survey Monkey elections system, which ensures additional security for elections and enhances the SGA’s ability to collect and analyze student feedback. With this enhanced tool, we have held very successful opinion surveys and elections – with over 700 voters participating in the At-Large Senator Elections. Much of our new success with surveys and elections is due to Parliamentarian Thomas Kenny’s commendable initiative in this area.
On a more somber note, I would like to condemn in strongest possible terms the writing of a racial epithet on one of our candidates’ campaign posters. This campus is a haven of acceptance and respect and acts like this simply damage our sense of community. I am happy to report that despite this repugnant act, the campus rallied behind this candidate and his bid for election was successful. Even in the face of vitriol, this candidate and his supporters persevered, demonstrating an absolute rejection of this kind of thoughtless behavior and a triumph of positive campaigning. In light of this incident and others, I call upon appropriate members of the professional staff and administration to fast-track the establishment of an automatic public reporting mechanism to inform the campus of on-campus bias-based incidents, similar to how sexual assaults must be publicly reported to the campus community. While receiving notification that racist or homophobic acts have taken place might be jarring and unsettling, knowledge is power. We must be more aware of the threats to our campus culture so that we can stand up to these incidents and work towards building a more harmonious community.
Moving on, the work of the Publicity Committee and Director of Publicity Emily Burdeshaw has also been a tremendous asset to the SGA as they have launched an SGA Twitter account (@SeahawksSGA), created a new SGA logo, and reinvigorated our Facebook presence (join “SMCM SGA” to get our latest updates!). We also established an e-mail account, email@example.com, and overhauled the SGA website, www.smcm.edu/sga, to include, among other things, the constitution and bylaws, as another means to facilitate engagement with the student body.
The SGA Programs Board, under the leadership of Director of Campus Programming Chelsea Cesaro and Assistant Director of Student Activities Clint Neill, was responsible for an array of incredible and diverse programming ranging from special events like our very own Hunger Games to a rap battle in the Grind. I cannot wait to see what this team has in store for this semester, especially for World Carnival!
On the budget side of things, Treasurer Tiko Mason has done an excellent job making sure our clubs are adequately funded – holding regular and emergency fund appeals in a timely fashion and leading the Finance Board to meet club needs while also ensuring that SGA finances are carefully managed and not disbursed if a club’s funding request is not detailed enough. Club Coordinator Gwen Kokes has also been phenomenal in her work. She has held regular Club Council meetings to make sure clubs understand fund appeals, vehicle requests, trip planning forms, and so much more. She was also very responsive to the numerous inquiries clubs had. She, along with Treasurer Mason, were great resources for new clubs seeking to become officially recognized by the SGA.
Lastly, I would like to thank the SGA Senate for their careful consideration and support of Meatless Mondays and the Open Housing Policy. The Meatless Monday initiative forced this campus to have a serious discussion about institutional values and sustainability. The attendance at Student Speakout was record-breaking and people with all opinions were given the opportunity to speak their mind. I would like to particularly thank SEAC and Vice President White for their leadership in this effort. Our planet faces the very real threat of climate change and making this small, yet meaningful and awareness-raising change shows that our generation has the capacity to consciously make sacrifices in order to realize long-term benefits of climate stability and environmental justice. Similarly, by voting to support the Open Housing Policy, the Senate demonstrated the campus’s commitment to creating a more flexible and welcoming Residence Life system, particularly for members of the LGBTQIA community.
This school has a lot to be proud of and I am so thankful for the chance to serve alongside all of the great people who are a part of the SGA. We all also owe an immense debt of gratitude to the Office of Student Activities, led by Kelly Schroeder, which supports the SGA on a day-to-day basis. This semester is a testament to the fact that if people get involved and care about their community, truly fantastic things can come of it. I look forward to building on the momentum of the fall as we kick off the spring semester and continue to serve the students of St. Mary’s!