As promised, I would like to follow up on my last article in the Point News, which covered the numerous accomplishments of the Student Government Association (SGA) in the first semester, in order to outline the goals Vice President Becky White and I have for this semester, our last at St. Mary’s.
Budget season is upon us and the financial pressures on our school are many. Tuition increases loom as our school struggles to keep pace with rising costs and the desire to deliver a strong academic program and residential experience, among other priorities. Given that tuition increases put additional stress on current students and threaten to discourage students from applying to this incredible institution, advocating for the College in Annapolis is a top priority. I have reached out to the University System of Maryland (USM) Student Council Chairman Zach Cohen to help create a groundbreaking joint venture between the USM and SMCM aimed at raising the profile of student voices in the discussion of affordability of higher education. Thanks to a great deal of work on his part, students from all Maryland public colleges and universities will descend on Annapolis on February 28th to urge the General Assembly to ensure the affordability of higher education into the future. Students will participate in a rally featuring high-profile political leaders and addresses from a few student leaders including myself. St. Mary’s students will then meet with key legislators who will ultimately decide whether we receive a tuition buy-down and support to go ahead with critical capital projects like the demolition and reconstruction of Anne Arundel.
The SGA is also working to make sure students have transportation to the February 22nd Board of Trustees meeting in Annapolis should they wish to voice their opinions regarding the proposed tuition increase for the next fiscal year. I have complete faith in Student Trustee Alex Walls’s ability to represent the students to the Board and I know it will only assist him in conveying the student position on tuition increases if more students travel to directly voice their thoughts. The Board of Trustees is genuinely interested in hearing students’ voices so I wholeheartedly encourage anyone interested to contact Student Trustee Walls or myself if you are interested in speaking.
Moving away from budget issues, Vice President White and I will make greater strides with regards to sustainability. We plan on exploring the scaling up and redesign of the reusable to-go box program and are looking to restructure the Green St. Mary’s Revolving Loan Fund (GSMRF) to better empower students to develop and launch energy-saving projects for the campus as part of our commitment to be carbon neutral by 2020. We also would like to re-engage the campus in dialogue over wireless printing. We are confident that a transition to a wireless printing system would address student printing concerns that have been repeatedly articulated through annual surveys completed by the Office of Residence Life and the Office of Information Technology in such a way that saves students money, expands access to printing across campus including at night, and saves ink and paper at the same time – a win-win-win! We fell short in conveying the urgency for and ease with which such reform can be accomplished and we will make a better case to students this semester.
In addition to sustainability, diversity issues are core to this administration’s efforts. We will advocate for the creation of a full-time Diversity Officer position to help coordinate diversity initiatives across offices. In doing so, we also endeavor to signal to potential applicants that we truly care about having a student body that reflects Maryland’s diverse population and that also attracts students from across the country and world to our beautiful school. Additionally, we will explore the possibility of creating more gender-neutral bathroom spaces on-campus given existing infrastructure as well as seek to pass a resolution aiming to incorporate gender-neutral bathrooms in all future campus construction plans.
Lastly, the SGA will be working to generate proposals to amend the SGA’s constitution, a document that has remained unedited since 2007 despite several failed attempts. Many operational realities of the SGA have changed and it is time for the constitution to reflect them. The Vice President and I will ensure that a thorough, transparent review of the constitution takes place and that each amendment is considered individually by the Senate instead of attempting to push a raft of reforms through the Senate en masse. The amendments that clear the Senate’s review will be put to the students alongside elections for President, Vice President, Treasurer, and Director of Campus Programming and the referendum on Meatless Mondays. We must see turnout above 1/3 of eligible voters for the amendments to be adopted. We are aiming to launch these elections on April 1st, as early as constitutionally possible, so that newly elected officials will have a month to shadow current SGA officers in their roles to facilitate a smooth transition into next school year’s administration.
There are certainly many other student issues that require attention and I promise to do my very best to learn about and act on them. I know I speak for Becky and myself when I say we are immensely grateful for the opportunity to serve this College. We hope to make the student body proud and empowered by all that we can accomplish together this semester.