Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
May 30, 2024

The Student Government Association’s (SGA) role is to serve the student body and represent it to the administration at large. Senior Moses Song, current Executive President of SGA, has aimed to actualize this role in his term as President through maintaining transparency and making students more aware of SGA workings.

“We have not only fulfilled this role but have significantly expanded on it by getting students more involved and keeping them more informed through town halls, campus safety and security programs, community service initiatives, weekly JHU This Week broadcasts, the SGABroadcast system, and a new Twitter account,” Song wrote in an email to The News-Letter.

Last year’s Executive Vice President, senior Wyatt Larkin, emphasized that SGA is essential in connecting the student body with the Administration.

“Student Government’s role is … to use the SGA’s resources to improve student life,” Larkin wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “If SGA doesn’t have access to, credibility with, and the trust of the administration, it is impossible for it to be effective.

In previous years, Song has organized the Mattin Market event series, worked with the Office of Communications on a pedestrian and bicycle safety campaign, Road Scholars and worked with JHU Security to establish Security Week, among other projects such as bringing the Daily Grind to the Brody Learning Commons Cafe.

Projects like these cannot be brought about without connection to the Administration, Larkin maintained.

“Without a strong relationship with the administration, SGA is just a well-funded club,” Larkin wrote.

 

ELECTIONS

 

In order to communicate effectively with the administration, it is crucial that the senior members of SGA quickly provide new senators with the knowledge they’ve gained from their past experience doing so.

However, the issue of accountability in elections has been an issue for the organization. Last semester during the Executive Board elections, a new policy was instituted requiring everyone running for elections to adhere to the same rules when campaigning.

“There was no shift in policy last Spring about what mediums could be used for campaigning for SGA positions,” Song wrote. “There was however, a change in policy with respect to the involvement of SGA members in elections in that SGA members now have to follow the same guidelines as candidates.”

Joanna Gawlik, Senior Class Senator and formerly Executive Treasurer has reservations about the election process.

“There’s no accountability in these elections because people don’t know who they’re voting for,” Gawlik said. “They don’t vote based on past success of candidates.”

Senior Hassan Yasin, a Senior Class Senator on SGA, echoed Gawlik’s sentiments and described how elections center on exposure, not the issues.

“You gain the best chance of winning these elections with the most exposure,” Yasin said.

Gawlik noted that current members of SGA know the tendencies of candidates most accurately.

“Everyone in SGA knows how else everyone else is doing,” she said. “I think there should be a better way of communicating to students that someone is qualified for a position.”

Agreeing, Yasin discussed an alternative system for elections that would give more power to current SGA officers because of their experience and knowledge.

“A better system could be if SGA pulled more weight in the elections of its Exec Board,” he said.

Yasin justified his opinion based on his understanding of what is necessary to complete a project through SGA. From the time he’s spent serving as a Senator of his class this year, he recognizes the procedures that are necessary to bring certain goals to fruition.

The effort required to achieve these accomplishments has been evident this year.

“Our Fall Concert fell through this year,” Gawlik said. “Each committee has been doing projects, but there is no big thing we can point to that was achieved in the fall.”

Gawlik believes this is a result, in part, of SGA’s high number of new members this year.

“Usually people come back from year to year, but this year we have very few returning members,” Gawlik said. “The semester flies by so it’s important to kill that learning curve as quickly as possible. It’s midway through February now and I think we’re there, but if this process repeats itself then it’s a downhill trend.”

A major challenge to SGA productivity is the necessity to quickly educate new members, something even more crucial this year due to the group’s demographics.

“One of the problems with SGA is that who’s going to be on it from year to year is completely unpredictable,” Gawlik shared. “Given that about fifty percent [of its members are new], it’s important to expose new senators to the procedures of SGA. This year people are definitely motivated and excited, but they just haven’t been [taught the proceedings of SGA] until very recently.”

Executive Secretary junior Paige Doyle is optimistic about what SGA will accomplish this spring semester.

“We have fun, new, and exciting events planned for this semester,” Doyle wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “With 22 new members, including myself, who now have a full semester of experience serving on the SGA, I expect that we will be even more effective at serving the student body and representing it to the Administration.”

 

PROVOKING CHANGE

 

Larkin suggested that because of its status as a group representing students to the administration, SGA has potential to invoke major changes on campus.

“Student Government has a substantial budget that can be leveraged to do big things on campus,” he wrote. “But, that requires its members to either step up with big ideas, or allocate SGA’s resources to students who will put the funds to good use.”

Reaching its maximum effectiveness requires that SGA is constantly creating and acting on new ideas.

“The SGA should always be ‘doing more’,” Larkin wrote. “The increased funding for Student life, which SGA has worked for over the past few years, brings with it a responsibility to keep doing more to improve life at Hopkins.”

This year, Gawlik feels, more could be done with the increased budget SGA has been provided with due to the upward trend in the success of its past years.

“In the past, the atmosphere of SGA has been very proactive,” she said. “If you weren’t doing anything, people would call you out, while now, ideas are forgotten because they are not quickly acted upon.”

Because of his limited time on SGA, Yasin has been discouraged by what he sees as a lack of efficiency on the committee.

“In my perspective, being new, it’s been frustrating not getting a lot of direction,” Yasin said. “We don’t necessarily know the procedure for how to get a certain project done.”

Song, on the other hand, disagrees.

“I’m always open to new ideas to make the SGA more productive and run more efficiently but believe that the SGA has been more productive and run more efficiently than at any point during my tenure on it,” he wrote.

The SGA is also working on improving the way that they communicate with students and how they represent the undergraduate population.

The Executive Board is willing to take student perspectives into consideration, Doyle wrote. The recent Town Hall meeting is one such example.

“While we are always open to suggestions to make the SGA run more effectively, I feel that the SGA has been run extremely effectively thus far,” Doyle wrote.

 


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