OP-ED: Sick & Tired of the SGA
Students at Manchester Community College have access to an awesome campus, with many student led clubs and activities. Though MCC doesn’t have as much variety as a four year university might, the social atmosphere here is elite compared to other community colleges in Connecticut.
The college is also always evolving and students can start new clubs and plan new events on campus. Or, at least they could if there wasn’t one major barrier to improving MCC’s social atmosphere: the Student Government Association. It is supposed to represent the interests and respond to the needs of students. But instead the SGA squanders its influence on campus and allows ideas that enter their office to die.
Currently MCC’s SGA is comprised of five students who hold executive officer positions and up to seven students who are supposed to directly represent the student body. These students are the direct link to the social atmosphere, through planning events, regulating clubs, and controlling the Student Activities Fund. The SAF totals around $80,000 and that money is generated by an elective fee paid by students at the beginning of the semester along with their tuition. Part time students pay $5, while full time students pay $10.
Control of the SAF is a major responsibility, and guidelines are set-up through the state comptroller. These guidelines dictate how the money can be spent and what process is required to spend the $80,000. What the guidelines don’t dictate is how the student government is supposed to be arranged, saying that each school’s government must be representative of the students who pay into the SAF.
MCC’s SGA runs off the constitution that formed the SGA has been updated many times, to fit the needs of the evolving school. Though, recently it seems the constitutional guidelines are not enough to rein in officers’ inflated sense of power. The student leaders no longer listen to student needs, and plan events because they are required to rather than have any actual wish for the events to succeed.
The most notable failed event this school year has been the Holiday Fest that took place in December. In years past this event was well publicized and featured many tables manned by members of MCC’s diverse roster of clubs celebrating the December holidays, and the SGA would host a table full of food. This attracted students and raised awareness of the event and all the opportunities students have to get involved on campus beyond their classes.
This year the Holiday Fest was supposed to be different. With proper planning the event would have attracted a lot of students, and the SGA could have helped connect interested students with campus clubs. Instead the SGA “phoned it in,” and students really didn’t know what was going on during the event. There was no SGA table, and most of the SGA officers didn’t even attend.
Along with dropping the ball on some events, they have also found a way to lose SAF money. This is the reason why the comptroller guidelines were created, to protect taxpayers’ money.
At the beginning of the year, SGA bought $250 worth of rubber bracelets they planned to hand out at MCC’s 50th anniversary event in September. After paying for the bracelets they received, it was found that they included a typo. Since SGA Pres. Brian Nwafor wanted to pass them out shortly after receiving them, another order placed. The misprinted bracelets were sent back, but because the manufacturer deemed the mistake the buyer’s fault, a refund was never issued. The total amount of money for the bracelets is equivalent to the amount paid by 100 part time students.
I understand mistakes do happen, but that is just a symptom of the overall problem. The SGA doesn’t work in its current format. The constitution needs to be rewritten and a totally new way of running things should be pursued.
The SGA leaders now allow their position to go to their head, and if an idea is presented and does not fit their agenda they use Parliamentary Procedure to cause the idea to fail. One such idea that was killed in committee was to do a time capsule for students that could be opened during a future anniversary celebration. Priced out, the whole capsule would have been fairly inexpensive, but very meaningful for this year’s class of students. The idea was brought up in the Campus Activities Board meeting. The CAB is a sub-committee of the SGA that works to flesh out and plan events and activities for students. Though, many committee members liked the idea, the time capsule was struck down after an SGA officer convinced enough people that it was “stupid.” He later revealed that he was just in a bad mood at the time, and that was the only reason he was against the idea.
To allow for a representative SGA without all these headaches, I think the structure should be simplified to just a volunteer Campus Activities Board. That way those who wish to be leaders can still do so, without going through the formal process of being elected. Such a move would also lower the level of commitment a member would need to make so that they can work on only the projects that interest them. All formal business should be left up to paid staff members of the college who know what they are doing, so mistakes don’t fall on the heads of students.
There are other benefits to a change in structure. Right now SGA officers must hold meetings twice a month and an officer from each student club must attend these meetings or risk losing the club funding they receive from SGA. Simplifying the structure would eliminate that need. Besides, the SGA meetings don’t of- ten accomplish much, except the perpetuation of a broken system. The general meetings are sometimes used as an opportunity for clubs to request funding from the SGA, but that process could easily be taken over by the Director of Student Activities T.J. Barber, who would make a decision based on the merit of the proposal and not the popularity contest funding requests have become.
I hope some changes will be made quickly, more student voices will begin to be heard, and more non-traditional students will be able to participate in the government that is supposed to represent them. If not, then students are doomed for another ineffective government next year.
But there is always the chance good leadership could arise and take the SGA out of the abyss it has created. Any interested students can begin campaigning once they have completed an elections packet that can be obtained in the Office of Student Activities in the SSC Lowe building. Elections for SGA officers for the 2014- 2015 school year will be held April 14 through April 17.