CHRIS BULFINCH ’18
The Student Government Association (SGA) is one of the most influential and important organizations on campus, representing student interests and affairs to the administration and faculty and presiding over a budget of nearly half a million dollars. It also interfaces with virtually every organization on campus, and is responsible for approving every student organization’s budget and status as official organizations. They fund and help to put on events on campus (in conjunction with a number of other organizations) and have student representatives sitting on a number of faculty and administration committees.
The SGA’s first two meetings have occurred in the last week, and the meetings are telling as to the direction of the organization, an organization whose actions can have a profound impact on the students of Trinity College.
The first SGA meeting occurred in the Reese Room of Smith House on Sunday, Sep. 27 at six in the evening. The meeting included newly elected representatives for the Class of 2019, as well as newcomers to various upperclassmen positions. The meeting was geared largely to begin discussion on plans for the year, as well as reports from the chairs of the various committees.
After a significant revision of the SGA’s constitution last year, there are now seven committees that will meet for the rest of this year. These committees include Academic Affairs, Student Life, Communications, Programing Broad (“Barnyard”), the Multicultural Affairs Council, the Inter-Organizational Council, and Budget Committee. The committees are lead by their own respective chairs, and consist of a varying number of student representatives from the Senate (and, in the cases of Barnyard and the Budget Committee, students elected independently from the SGA).
The revisions stipulated a variety of specific protocols for the various committees, including number of required meetings, overall responsibilities of the committees and their chairs, and their role in the larger SGA. The new constitution further lays out the structure of the SGA. The core of the SGA is the senate. Each class, in addition to a treasurer and class president, elects four senators. The senators must each serve on two committees, in addition to participating in class councils (open forums where members of each class can meet their year’s representatives to voice concerns) with their fellow senators and class presidents. The treasurers serve on the Budget Committee as well as participating in the regular duties of senators. The Class Presidents are in charge of coordinating their Class Councils, report on their class council meetings, and organize class-specific events. The Executive Board oversees the committees, and the president and vice-president oversee the overall functioning of the SGA, ensuring that all members and committees have the appropriate resources for their tasks.
The changes to the constitution were drafted by a subcommittee convened at the end of last year to rectify a number of procedural and committee issues that had arisen in years past.
The SGA, following the principles of its newly reminted constitution, was called to order at six in the evening on Sept. 27th.
The meeting opened with introductions of all of the senators, treasurers and e-board members. Each committee chair described their position, their committee’s responsibilities, and their plans and goals for the committee. Senators were informed that they would have to decide which committees were the most interesting to them.
At the urging of the SGA president, Max Le Merle, ’16, the Senate broke off into groups based on class year, in order to consider what solutions exist for the major issues on campus. This discussion was intended to give the representatives a general sense of what issues are important for the SGA, which in turn would lend perspective as to what action is needed by Trinity’s student representatives.
Each group came back with a very distinct perspective. The Class of 2019 felt that public smoking and littering were major issues. The Class of 2018, meanwhile, believed that the SGA’s visibility on campus needed work, as well as a sense of campus pride. Further, the Class of 2018 contended that the food and food service provided by Chartwell’s was a major issue, and that a tracking feature for Trinity’s shuttle service would be a boon to campus. The Class of 2017, meanwhile, saw parking and the housing lottery as being pressing problems, notwithstanding the blight of TrinAir, a common complaint among all four classes. Increased alumni connections seemed to weigh heavily on the Class of 2016, as well as a sense of political apathy and a lack of global citizenship on campus.
Though a far cry from any substantive policy or concrete plan, the discussion that the SGA engaged in for its first meeting was an important step in establishing the SGA’s presence for the year to come. A major focus for the SGA is on attention to its constituents; many of the changes of the new constitutions specifically mandated increased interaction with the student body, and a more effective system for registering and acting on student sentiments and opinions. The SGA hopes to function as an effective arbitrator for the will of the students, and their first meeting reflected the fact that SGA actions and policy will be strongly student centered for the 2015-2016 academic year.