The Student Government Association (SGA) unanimously passed the Student Initiative Grant this past Tuesday. Meant to spark innovation on Homewood, the grant awards undergraduates with up to $1,000 to fund a campus improvement projects.
Project ideas listed on the grant application include physical additions to campus, student performances, student involvement events, dorm life improvement and software and web design. One idea that was discussed was the possibility of an iPhone application that displays a map of campus.
The SGA then proceeded to debate a constitutional amendment from the Committee on Student Elections (CSE) regarding declaring one's candidacy for office. The amendment was tabled until next week's meeting, mainly because of the absence of some senior members.
However, the introduction of the amendment started a dialogue about how the SGA can reform its election process.
One of the sections in the proposed amendment would allow candidates to enter the race later than was previously permitted. If there are too few candidates contending for a particular position or if a candidate were to be running unopposed, the CSE would allow new candidates to join the race right up until the beginning of the voting period.
The intention of this legislation is to enhance the democratic process and to have transparent elections that encourage competition.
"[SGA campaigns give] the best opportunity for students [who don't hold office] to interact with their government," Merrill Anovick, Sophomore Class President, said.
Currently, candidates have to attend a mandatory information meeting, complete a petition form and complete a campaign finance form before they are eligible to run.
As an SGA member pointed out, these tasks would be difficult to complete the day before an election.
Despite the good intentions, some SGA members still had reservations about the legistlation. Some members wondered whether students would really decide the day before an election to run for office. But if students realize that they may be running against only one other candidate, they may be more likely to run.
Some pointed out that this legislation may encourage students who had previously planned to run for a certain position to wait and see the how big the fields are for all of the positions, inadvertently reducing the original size of the field. In addition, one SGA member pointed out that students who enter the race very late do not have campaigns that are well executed.
This led many to ask whether or not the SGA would be encouraging "sloppy campaigns."
Two suggestions were made to ameliorate some of these problems. First, the SGA should create a lag time between declaring candidacy and starting the campaign. This period would give other students more time to think about running.
Second, SGA should increase advertisement and promotion of student elections. The SGA plans on proliferating advertisements much earlier this year and in much greater quantities.
Once the legislation was tabled, the SGA discussed Junior Class President Alexandra Larsen's plan to create a private tutoring program. Many students use the Learning Den, an extra help center provided by the university, to get assistance with certain courses.
However, these sessions can have up to six students. Sometimes students need individual attention and not everyone can afford a private tutor. And for those that can afford private tutors, it is not always easy to find someone quickly.
Larsen suggested creating a database that would give students a facile way of finding tutors. She recommended a link be made on ISIS that would display the contact information of tutors in various subjects.
To ensure the quality of the tutors, the individuals listed on this link could be recommended by professors.
Many SGA members came to the consensus that the best way to create a private tutoring program would be to expand the Learning Den.
According to some SGA members, tutors would be more likely to work if they were offered a fixed salary from the Learning Den as opposed to receiving unstable commission. The SGA added that if such incentives were to be implemented, students would have greater access to these individual tutors.
However, the SGA noted that professors and TAs are great resources and they should be the first people students ask for help.
Additionally, this week, some SGA members will be attending a dinner in Garland hall hosted by Scannell-Kurz, a consulting firm.
The firm is doing research about financial aid and will speak with SGA members to evaluate the university's ability to help need blind applicants.