SGA pushes for more legislative power, autonomy on campus

Mariah Joyce

News Editor

The Student Government Association (SGA) is spearheading an initiative to have a more accountable student voice on campus, according to SGA President Josh Foerst ’15. This initiative is in response to a loss of power on the part of SGA as a result of a Campus Council (CC) restructuring which took place last spring. Foerst feels this initiative is necessary because “[SGA] cannot fully advocate for students if we are missing a key component of what we must advocate for: power in policymaking.”

Said Foerst, “SGA has failed the students that it represent[s]. That was underneath a previous executive board. Now, the new leadership wants to push SGA in the direction that it was made to be going.” Currently, Foerst feels that rather than representing the student body, SGA is functioning as CC’s “workhorse.”

In the spring of 2014, SGA lost its seat on CC. Previously, the makeup of student representatives on CC had been as follows: three At-Large Student Representatives, one SGA Representative, one Black Student Association Representative, one Inter-Greek Council Representative, one Wooster Activities Crew Representative, one International Student Association Representative and one Wooster Volunteer Network Representative.

According to CC Chair Elliot Wainwright ’15, SGA lost their seat on CC as part of a routine restructuring of CC.

Said Wainwright, “The discussion of the composition of Council is something that happens every three years. The conversation and formulation of the new composition took the entirety of last year and had to be approved by the President and Board of Trustees.”

Wainwright explained that this restructuring came about as a result of CC trying to ensure the seats were inclusive. The new system, implemented this fall, moved away from umbrella student organizations such as SGA, WAC or IGC having reserved seats to “issue based seats [which are] open for any invested students to run for in a caucus-style format.”

Under this system, CC now includes four At-Large Student Representatives, one Gender and Sexual Diversity Representative, one Racial Diversity Representative, one Selective Organizations Representative, one Service and Civic Engagement Representative and one International Diversity Representative.

Though these changes make CC seats more accessible to the general student body, Foerst raised concerns both about a lack of accountability and a hobbling of SGA’s decision-making power. Specifically, Foerst felt that CC created issues by not specifying the roles of these new representatives.

At a meeting of CC, Foerst inquired during open discussion how exactly the student representatives are representing their constituents.

Said Foerst, “SGA has had this issue in the past, but we have held fireside chats [and] meet-and-greets and brought cookies and coffee to the library during finals week to put ourselves out there. … From my understanding, only two [CC] representatives are making any sort of effort to reach their constituency groups.”

Prior to Fall Break, the SGA cabinet had a meeting about these issues to which all student representatives of CC were invited. At that meeting, SGA asked that their reserved seat on CC be reinstated, to which Wainwright and other CC representatives agreed. However, both Wainwright and Foerst said that this meeting was just the first of many in the coming months. Wainwright said of the discussion, “It was a productive meeting that was the very first step of a larger conversation.”

Foerst believes that as the conversation continues, more drastic steps must be taken in order to preserve SGA’s ability to advocate for students. Foerst sees the restoration of SGA’s seat on CC as a necessary first step but contends that it is “a Band-Aid to a wound that needs stitches.”

Instead, Foerst wants to implement a system based on the legislative branch of the United States government, with CC acting as the Senate and SGA as the House of Representatives, with any legislation passing through both organizations.

“There is a lot of discussion that needs to be had before these changes occur, but the current system is not working,” said Foerst. “SGA, CC and Judicial Board need to take a step back, look at their current roles, and define their powers as equal but separate.”

Under the current system, Judicial Board and SGA are chartered to CC, and CC is chartered to the Board of Trustees. Foerst feels that all three organizations need to be chartered to the Board of Trustees and contends that the only reason SGA would need to be chartered to CC would be for funding, which SGA generates on its own.

The conversation between SGA and CC will continue in the coming months. Initially, SGA will resolve to de-charter from CC, uncharted territory for both organizations. Once this step has been taken, SGA will rework its constitution, and ultimately SGA will require the support of the Board of Trustees in order to charter through that group rather than CC.