This week was Student Government Week, an SGA initiative to try to reach out to students and reconnect with the constituents that they represent. This worthwhile effort on the part of SGA draws much-deserved attention to SGA’s increased transparency and efficiency this year, while highlighting the areas that need continued improvement.
This year began with marked improvements in the realms of transparency. The addition of personal response systems and a new online bill system created a means of viewing the fee allocation process in real time at www.gtsga.com. Unfortunately, this valuable asset hasn’t been used consistently this year. The comment portion of the website is filled with seemingly unmonitored spam; there is no way to view the individual voting records of representatives, despite the easy transfer of data from the personal response systems to a website; and the bills are uploaded infrequently at best.
SGA also demonstrates the significant disconnect between representatives and their individual constituencies. Far too many students don’t know who their representatives are, or what responsibilities their representatives have.
The Undergraduate House of Representatives had over $950,000 to allocate to student organizations and events at the start of the year, and the lack of communication between students and representatives leaves that money effectively at the discretion of a very small group of students. While SGA has been historically responsible and cautious in their allocations, it is crucial that students become more involved in the process so that the needs of every student are addressed, not just the needs of the vocal few who understand how to use the bill submission process.
Representatives, especially those for the freshman class, should be encouraged to email, speak with and get to know their constituents. Events should be planned so that those freshmen who had their representatives elected for them can meet their representatives and learn about the many facets of SGA. Events such as this could serve the dual purposes of increasing communications between representatives and constituents while also encouraging freshmen to become involved.
SGA needs to continue to make communication and outreach to the student body their top priority, not just for one week of the year, but throughout the semester. Future administrations should continue the improvements begun this year. However, the effort cannot be one-sided. Students must also become interested in the affairs of SGA. They should make an effort to express what they need and want to their representatives as well as their expectations for SGA as a whole.