New SGA: The Voice of the Student Body

The Student Government Associationwants to change the waystudents see SGA at Western. Newchanges are coming next semesterwith the new President and SGAwants students to know the truth.SGA is in theory, an open lineof communication between the Universityand the student body. Accordingto Eileen Farineau, Chief of Staffof SGA, SGA works under the legislativebranch and the dual branchsystem. SGA has had some problemswith students. Many students feelSGA is not doing their job. Howeverthe SGA is looking forward to thenew changes that will be made.”Voting is over,” Farineausaid. “We now have a new Presidentand Vice President. They are nowstarting the process of transition andthey will be attending four meetingsa week to start that. Now we haveeight new amendments that havebeen past so now the way senatewas run before will be turned upsidedown. There will be a represenitivefor each department on campus, eachclass will have a representative. Uppercampus and lower campus willalso have representatives. Formerlythere were about 40 people on thisstaff that hold responsibility for almosteverything. Now we have 16which makes things easier becausethey are specialized.”SGA is certain that the newPresident will bring changes to theorganization and help students oncampus understand the importanceof SGA to the university.”The new President of SGAwill facilitate the necessary changes to that organization,” Aaron Bloemsma, the Student Body President said. “The president drafted the new amendments that were past by the student body. It’s evident that he is a driving force for change.”Farineau agrees that the change is good for SGA and its students.”He is ready to be the next Presidentof SGA,” Farineau said. “He has been very involved and has brought us a lot of great ideas. I do believe that the students that did vote made a very good decision.”Although SGA will be working to change the campus and the organizationalstructure of SGA, there are still some students that don’t understand what SGA is or does for Western’s campus.”I know that I, personally, am planning to sit down with the new Presidentand help him find ways reach out to the student body,” Farineau said. “I have been on campus for five years. In that amount of time I’ve learned how to communicate with the student body. It’s not hard to send out an email or flier about Student Government and tell students how to make their voices heard. Distribution of information is an issue on our campus that is seldom addressed. I look forward to working with the new President to make Student Government, and the campus at large, a better forum for the ideas that are importantto our community.”According to some students at Western, SGA did not do their best to make the student body aware of the SGA election. Students complained that they were grossly uninformed of the changes SGA is attempting here at Western. The problem was, in the end, a failure to communicate.”Our election board oversaw the elections,” Farineau said. “As executivestaff members, we were not allowedto have any say in the elections. The reason for this is so [the election] is not biased or rigged in any way. So when people view you as having power students blame you when something goes wrong. In actuality we are all equal but we will be the first people to say there was no advertisement, but we will also be the first to say that it was not our fault.”Another problem is students don’t know how, where or when to vote.Farineau said, “Most students are unaware of Catamount Connections, the online database of student organizationshere at Western. The reason SGA went online was because [online voting]was supposed to be easier. However,my view on that is we could still use paper ballots and assign a physical place for students to vote. There is no reason to go with a completely digital ballot, the best move would be to allowboth physical and digital ballots and allow the students to choose how they vote. Due to the all digital ballot,this was the lowest voter turn out for any election in student history.”The election is over. However concerns have been raised about the influence that Greek organizations hold over the SGA. Students are askingif SGA favors the interests of Greek students over the interests of non-Greek students.”I am part of a Greek [organization],”Steven Held, Director of Managing and Finance said. “My job is financial reasoning and Greek organizations are planning to take a retreat. We are evaluating their plans. We are hoping to use the retreat as a leadership conference. I do think that the administration is more biased towardshelping Greeks rather than other student organizations, if for no other reason than the Greeks are generally more organized than most other student organizations.”The biggest problem that most students have with SGA is the process for appealing parking tickets.Students around campus are upsetabout how SGA is handling parkingtickets but the SGA is sometimes powerless in the face of this issue.”In regards to ticket appeals I think [the SGA] is doing the best they can,” Bloemsma said. “We need to keep judicial courts separate from SGA.”Farineau agrees that SGA has little power over Judicial Affairs.”Students feel that the ticketsthey come to appeal can be paid for at hearings,” Farineau. “First of all, students are getting the tickets because they are doing something wrong. Usually, they are parking someplace that says don’t park here. If you know you’re doing something wrong then of course you are going to get fined. Judicial Affairs lives in their own little world. Officials from Judicial Affairs don’t talk to executivestaff. If you ask them what’s goingon they usually get very defensive,so because of that we usually just leave them alone.”Increased student involvementin SGA is the best solution to the problems that the student body faces. We have a campus full of studentsthat, until now, have not felt represented by their student government.It is up to the next SGA administrationto do everything in their power to make sure that the student body at Western is heard by our administrationso that real change can happen.”If you have a voice we want it to be heard, join SGA,” Farineau said.