On Feb. 5, members of the joint Student Government Association (SGA) and Campus Council (CC) Oversight Committee held a discussion to talk to the student body about the planned merging of the two governing bodies at the College. An email sent by SGA emphasized the purpose of the meeting, stating, “At this panel, we will be giving a more in-depth overview of the recommendations we will be making to restructure how student government works at the College and will be available for student input or feedback.”
Members of SGA and CC, as well as other students, were present at the discussion, which was led by Emilee McCubbins ’20, Matt Mayes ’20, Isaac Weiss ’20, Emmy Todd ’22 and Samuel Casey ’21.
In the beginning of the discussion, Mayes clarified the reason behind the proposal to create a new body. “The fact that SGA is supposed to be in charge of advocacy and [CC] isn’t, but CC is the one that is able to pass policies does not make sense and it leads to a lot of confusion and inefficiencies between the two,” Mayes said. “Once we have one body whose goal is to advocate for students and actually has the power to pass [policies], I think we’ll see lot more positive changes on this campus.”
After presenting the rationale behind creating a singular governing body on campus, the panelists opened the discussion for questions and comments from the audience.
The first student to raise concerns was the Chair of CC Halen Gifford ’21, who highlighted the potential removal of the civic and service engagement representative, a position that Gifford herself holds. She explained that students express numerous concerns regarding town relations, and that the position looks after improving such relationships by working with the community. “Considering the fact that part of the President’s Strategic Plan on campus is to [improve] community engagement and experiential learning, how does it make sense to remove that individual from the policy-making body?,” she asked. To address Gifford’s concern, Mayes replied, “Most people seem to conceptualize the Constituency [representative] more as a tool in which traditionally under-represented views on campus are highlighted and have additional power. When we compare the needs of — for example, queer students on campus — to something nebulous like Civic and Service Engagement, we couldn’t quite justify that representative having the same representation as other groups. Concerns like town relations on campus, I think that can be done without having a representative from a group that is so wide- spread and dispersed.”
While the members of the Oversight Committee seemed positive about creating a singular governing body, students expressed various concerns about dissolving the present bodies.
One student asked about the new body’s mission statement, to which Weiss replied that it had not been finalized yet, but that the members had a general idea of what it is going to be. “We are working on drafting [a mission statement], but the general idea of this body — as we’re working on the mission statement — is to help advocate for the student body and to help legislate affairs on the behalf of students,” Weiss said.
The most common concern echoed among the audience was that the process of creating a new governing body seemed rushed. At-large Senator of SGA Doug Morris ’22 said, “A lot of the stu- dents have come up to me talking about how they feel like this whole process is rushed, and I’m just wondering why we are pushing to get this done by the end of the academic year and not waiting for at least one more semester.”
Mayes answered that they had received a “green light” from the administration to create a new body. “About talking to students, some students were afraid that if we delayed it further, we would basically be dealing with two student organizations that do not have any powers, waiting for a new government to take over,” he reasoned. “Right now, it seems like it might be a better idea to start the new body. If we need to bring any changes, all of that could be done within the new body.”
However, members of the audience were not persuaded by the response. Several more students echoed similar concerns about the pace of establishing a single government body, and the discussion — which had al- ready gone over its scheduled time — was moved from the Pit to Lowry 119. Although the en- tire audience was invited to that meeting, only two students who were not members of SGA or CC attended.
“I don’t think this was the reaction I was expecting necessarily,” Mayes commented after they moved to the new location. He also noted that he wanted to hear from more students since the same students were express- ing concerns repeatedly. “Is that what everyone is thinking?” he asked. “We’re not trying to de- bate; we’re trying to see how students actually feel about it.”
While student representatives said the process felt rushed, most also agreed that creating a new government body was ultimately a good decision.
Marco Roccato ’20, an at- large senator for SGA, supported the proposal to create a new government body. He urged the audience to think of the merging as creation of a completely new body, instead of thinking of the creation as a “mix-and match.” He emphasized, “We have the chance to set up a stu- dent government that is [not only] the most efficient, but also the most representatives.
Grace O’Leary ’20 also shared Roccato’s sentiment. “I’m all for merging,” she said. “But I really think that we need to come in with a very clear constitution and guidelines.”
Despite her concerns, Gifford also agreed that merging will be a good decision for the future. However, she mentioned that she would not be voting yes until there are concrete policies and minute details “fleshed out.”
After analyzing the feedback, members of the Oversight Committee noted that they would take the feedback and continue to make changes.