Members of the Student Government Association (SGA), are seeking to remedy the problem of the lack of student involvement in SGA activities.
This past week was SGA Week, an initiative organized by the Committee of Public Relations, headed by Brian Howell, a fourth-year Management major. Throughout the week, the SGA planned a variety of activities to raise student awareness of the SGA and what it does for the student community at Tech.
On Monday and Tuesday, SGA members displayed a comment board on Skiles Walkway and asked for input from passing students, who wrote down their ideas about a wide range of issues.
“So far we’ve received a lot of positive feedback from the student body. A lot of students this week have realized the accessibility of SGA,” Howell said.
“We’re receiving many suggestions,” said Anu Parvatiyar, undergraduate student body president. “After we take the board down, I’ll be compiling these comments and forwarding them to the appropriate committees for consideration.”
The categories on the board ranged from “What can we do to raise cultural awareness on campus?” to “What kind of new things should our BuzzCards be used for?” There was also a section for general comments and concerns.
The highlight of SGA Week was Tuesday evening’s “Meet Your Representative” event, which was held in Room 117 of the Student Services (Flag) Building and began at 7:00 p.m., half an hour before the regular Undergraduate House of Representatives meeting. Students who attended the event mingled with their representatives and talked about specific concerns.
The weekly UHR meetings are always open to all students, but light refreshments were provided at Tuesday’s event as an added incentive.
There is a very simple reason for putting together all of the events that made up SGA week: student government members have been noticing an increasingly marked sense of indifference towards the organization among the majority of students.
“I believe that there is a variety of factors for this apathy – for example, many students on campus think the SGA is mostly political, and they aren’t very interested in policy,” said Nick Wellkamp, SGA vice president of administrative affairs. “We want students to know that we’re here for them and that we value their feedback.”
“I think that since students pay the student activity fee at the beginning of the year, they forget about it afterwards and don’t realize that we’re making decisions about their money,” said Carola Conces, MATH representative in the UHR.
However, the SGA’s influence in shaping campus life extends far beyond simply distributing funds to student groups.
“Currently, most students believe SGA is an extension of Georgia Tech, whose main purpose is to allocate funds, when in reality it is a representation of the student body,” Howell said.
On Wednesday and Thursday, the SGA office was open for all students to visit. Representatives were constantly in the office, greeting students and addressing any issues raised.
Informational posters were set up inside the office and students were able to write their suggestions on comment boards outside.
“Right now, we’ve mostly been receiving ideas on improvements for student services, like BuzzCards and the Stinger and Trolley systems,” Parvatiyar said.
A look at how students reacted to SGA week and their general opinion of what the SGA does for Tech reveals that while some simply do not keep up to date with the SGA’s proceedings, others are disillusioned with what they see as a bogged-down political process.
“I don’t believe the SGA has real substantive power,” said Kalin Richardson, a third-year Management major. “It is still subject to the administration and is therefore not fully autonomous in its actions.”
On the other hand, some are more optimistic about the SGA’s role in campus life.
“It’s a very influential organization, but it needs to become more ‘public,’” said Lindsay Anglin, a first-year International Affairs major.
Some of the popular past initiatives that the SGA has planned include GT Night at Six Flags, One Night Stand, and Ruckus.
Currently, the SGA is working on a partnership with Uloop, an online trading site that would allow for better and more efficient exchange of books and other items among Tech students, faculty, and staff. But student enthusiasm and input are the factors that push the SGA to achieve its goal of giving students a say in how the university is run.
“We’ve had less student initiative this year than we did last year, but we’re confident that that’s going to change through programs that will raise awareness about what the SGA does on a day-to-day basis,” Parvatiyar said.