The Student Government Association (SGA) met on Tuesday evening to discuss its approach to the coming academic year. Executive President Alex Schupper, Executive Treasurer Dylan Gorman, Executive Secretary Kyra Toomre and Senior Class President Sean Glass (filling in for Executive Vice President Janice Bonsu) presided.
SGA formulated its annual goals on an all-day retreat prior to their first meeting. Transparency, in terms of SGA’s policies and its presence on campus, emerged as the most prominent of these goals.
“The junior and senior class tickets didn’t even fill up [in the last election],” Toomre said. “I think part of why that happened is because SGA hasn’t been getting our name out there.”
SGA fulfilled its constitutional obligations to have six sitting senators from each class with the appointment of senior Jacob Peters to fill a vacant seat.
“I’m working on making a page on the SGA website that has profiles along with pictures of each senator so that people, if they want to, can figure out who their representatives are and whom to talk to, because right now it just says their names and emails,” Toomre said.
Toomre has also spearheaded “What Do You Want Wednesdays,” a monthly program set to start with an Oct. 2 session on the Breezeway from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. designed to solicit students for suggestions on how to improve the school as well as SGA itself. These recurring Wednesday events were initiated to involve undergraduates further in leadership decisions and to remind them that SGA is listening for their input.
“I think that if we want to move in the direction of having a well-represented student body, they have to know what we’re doing,” Toomre said.
Schupper noted that SGA is also reaching out to the student body through its news media.
“As we did at the tail end of last year, we’re going to be working closely with JHU This Week, led by [junior] Maxwell Dickey. They made a lot of great efforts during election periods to interview candidates, so we’ll really be harping on them throughout the entire year,” Schupper said.
A new logo is in the works to be featured on SGA paraphernalia, from polo shirts to pens and buttons. Presented by Gorman at the meeting, the logo draft features the university seal that was introduced last year to unify all divisions of Hopkins. This design is subject to change, as many senators did not find it distinctive from other University organizations’ insignia.
As Rodolfo Finocchi, a junior class senator and chair of SGA’s Safety, Sustainability, and Development Committee (SSD) announced, SGA’s transparency initiatives have already taken effect.
The Association discussed Security Week, led by Finocchi. Enrollment in the Crime Watch Program, which is presented during Security Week and promotes faster and more efficient reporting of crimes by eyewitnesses to police, is higher than ever. Finocchi noted during the meeting that it was SGA’s proactive approach this year that allowed the third annual Security Week to happen almost two months earlier than it did last year.
Three new clubs sought official approval at Tuesday’s meeting, relayed Mahzi Malcolm, chair of the Appointments and Evaluations Committee and a junior class senator. Pending membership to the flock of approved Hopkins clubs are the Thai Students’ Association, the Scuba Club and the Wading Team (dedicated to wading in inflatable pools at sports events in order to promote school spirit).
Additionally, Junior Class Senator Tiffany Yang introduced cheerleading as a potential club or a varsity sport, depending on the level of student enthusiasm for the initiative. She reported that a dozen freshmen have already shown interest.
SGA also entertained a grant proposal from senior Katie Brooks, a vice president of the American Marketing Association. She asked SGA to help fund “Movember,” a series of four events in November to raise money and awareness for prostate and testicular cancer. She plans to involve between 50 and 75 local businesses as well as a number of student groups and Greek organizations in her fundraising. Her proposal is pending approval.
Another of SGA’s initiatives involves Bon Appétit, the University’s new campus dining service.
“We hope to have chefs visiting every month. We’re currently in contact with several chefs nationwide. We hope they’ll be signing books, running cooking classes, and featuring a dish or two,” Schupper said.
He said SGA aims to have these chefs’ visits take place in the Fresh Food Café (FFC).
“We’d like to have executive chefs come in and talk about dishes that can be made in the dorms,” he said. “We want to establish the link between Bon Appétit and the student body.”
There are also plans underway to have one weekly correspondent from The News-Letter attend and report on all SGA meetings to further the SGA’s goals for improving transparency and accountability. Toomre will also begin sending out SGA Sunday evening updates to Hopkins news outlets so that they can more easily report on SGA’s actions and initiatives to the student body.
Tuesday’s meeting included a debate on whether or not the SGA should allow reporters from The News-Letter to record its meetings in order to transcribe more extensive quotations and ensure their accuracy. Some opposed the idea on the premise of privacy, while others, like Director of Student Activities and SGA Advisor Robert Turning, said that restricting the recording rights of the paper would be detrimental.
“You’re asking for a PR nightmare,” Turning said.
SGA meetings are open to all undergraduates, though none were present at Tuesday’s meeting to listen in. The SGA may decide to release podcasts of their meetings so that students can stay updated on their own time.
“We’re not even through the first month and we’ve already accomplished some really huge things,” Toomre said of SGA’s progress. “People are ready to work and are running with it.”