Speaking to Our Student Government

Posted by The Editorial Board

Our student government serves primarily to voice the opinions of the student body. They are our representatives, as well as the institution most capable of taking action in response to student concern. However, it appears as if recently there is some major disconnect between the general student population and the SGA, for they do not seem to be effectively adhering to the will of the students.

We might blame this on student apathy: a lack of willingness among students to communicate with the SGA, or attend public Senate meetings, or to propose resolutions. But this claim is an easy out - perhaps the SGA should be more actively reaching out to students so as to make better use of their time, and essentially, enact change aligned with student opinion. It is not the overwhelming sense on campus that the SGA is the most valid means of reaching the administration or of doing work of critical concern.

While the SGA at times expresses the sentiments of the student body, as with the recent decision to bring a resolution addressing minimum wage on campus to the Institutional Policy Planning Committee, these efforts, as exhibited by the IPPC's rejection of the aforementioned proposal to bring the resolution before the President's Cabinet, may not be the most effective way to aid the student body.  

In the most recent senate meeting, a great deal of time was allocated to the "Clothing Optional Campus" resolution.  It seems that the impetus of this resolution was not the student body, but instead, that of SGA members who wanted to codify a rule they personally ascribed importance to. First and foremost, Skidmore cannot legally become clothing optional as New York State ultimately prohibits this behavior. Due to both its motivations, and its implausibility, far more time than necessary was allocated to its discussion. Furthermore, two recent Senate sessions devoted time to the passage of an attendance policy as well as whether or not SGA representatives should purchase clickers for voting. Both are policies that deserved far less consideration than they received.

There are better and more urgent issues that the SGA can address to affect change on campus, such as their budgeting power and the management of club affairs. Where the SGA holds significant power is within the realm of club budgeting. Each year they review and revise every club's budget, cutting or augmenting based on the budget's niceties. This allows students to pay for the events and resources their clubs need to fulfill their roles in the student community.

Still, even once the SGA passes a budget, clubs must request permission to spend their funds on certain projects or items. It is understandable that the SGA would want to preclude students from spending hundreds of dollars on items or trips irrelevant to the purpose of their club, however, this micromanaging of club funds manifests itself in enormous inconvenience for students - for instance insisting that students drive lengthy distances rather than fly, even when the extra money is available in other sections of the budget.

Revisiting how budgeting works and sharing sovereignty over club funds with the clubs themselves is work much more important than the question of whether or not the purchase of clickers is worthwhile.  If the student body is unhappy with something (there's always something), the SGA should be the first to respond, and it seems that the current manner of delegating funds to different clubs is a major complaint across campus. Why, then, does it not seem as if the SGA is looking to make alterations to this system?  Or if these alterations are in the process of coming to be, why are more students not informed?

Another concern that was brought up during the April 1 Senate meeting by both senators and non-SGA members was a lack of communication between the SGA and the student body. While the Senate meetings, as public forums through which students may express their concerns, are an excellent way to keep in touch with the student body, the SGA might benefit from looking into ways to make the information discussed during these meetings even more accessible to students. It currently takes the SGA up to two weeks to publish their minutes from the meetings, and sometimes the agendas are not even put up onto their website.

Each year, many SGA candidates run on the same platform--communication--implying that each year the previous SGA regime failed in this regard. Students should receive more frequent updates, more general emails as to the nature and progress of their work. The SGA needs to remember that they represent the students, and are not there to merely pad their resumes - they serve to organize student interests and pursue them, to connect the student body to the administration and to act as a forum for inter-student communication.

This is not to say the SGA has done no good. Events this year have been executed well (Moorebid has been more successful this past year than in years prior). The divestment and minimum wage resolutions, even if outside the SGA's jurisdiction, exemplified the SGA championing the student cause. Moving forward, the SGA needs to prioritize its goals but also remember why they're there: to serve the students. Communication is a perennial issue. Budgeting and club funding is another, recognized by each club board as well as the students that participate within them.

The SGA has recently suffered a depreciation in their status on campus, due to their pursuit of matters beyond their control, and consequently, their mismanagement of responsibilities that lie within the parameters of their power. The Editorial Board feels that to regain their prestige, the SGA must re-evaluate its role on this campus - they must take a closer look at their prerogatives and responsibilities, and thus take steps to return themselves to being the champion of the students.

Campus Safety Reports: April 4 to 10

Skidmore's Annual Earth Day Festival: Kicks off Saturday at 1 p.m.