Student Government Association discusses plans for the coming year

By ANANTA SRIVASTAVA | September 5, 2019

The Student Government Association (SGA) held their first weekly meeting of the 2019-20 academic year at Charles Commons on Tuesday.

At the meeting, SGA members discussed changes that Executive Board members made this summer, such as consolidating SGA funds and revising the annual Rules Bill. The Committee on Student Elections (CSE) also provided details on upcoming class council elections. 

The Executive Board stated that they plan to make SGA operations this year more transparent with the general student body and within SGA itself. 

Executive Vice President Dean Chien said that in past years, SGA allowed for the use of multiple pools of funds to bring in speakers and food without requiring approval from a majority of SGA members. 

Now, the Executive Board will combine all their funds into one account and require a vote to approve expenditures. Executive President Aspen Williams explained that SGA will also need to keep a public record of all expenses. 

“[Having one SGA fund] is a lot more efficient, but we still need to legally figure out how we can do that in terms of funding speakers and food,” Williams said. 

Chien also explained in an interview with The News-Letter that aside from the bills discussed in the meeting, SGA will author future legislation to address the results of the 2018-19 referendum.

In an interview with The News-Letter, Williams added that SGA aims to push for more student input in the student center’s design and advocate for improvements to student mental health.

“We want to have a faculty member assigned to be in charge of making sure that every faculty in the department has an understanding of mental health and knowing what to do if a student is having a crisis,” Williams said.

The CSE, which regulates SGA elections, stated that they would like future SGA candidates to better reflect the makeup of the student body. CSE Chair Bahira Ahmed stated that she hopes to incorporate more Whiting School of Engineering representation because a vast majority of the current SGA members are part of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. 

“We want to increase the amount of candidates and increase the diversity of the candidates,” Ahmed said. 

During the meeting, Williams also introduced the Retreat Funding Bill for their annual autumn retreat on Saturday, Sept. 7. SGA hosts the retreat to help provide guidance to senators as to how they can best fulfill their roles. 

The bill acted to provide a stipend for their speaker, Keilah Jacques, who is an instructor in the Bloomberg School of Public Health. At the retreat, Jacques will present to SGA about the history of Baltimore and how SGA interfaces with the broader Baltimore community. The bill passed unanimously.

The Rules Bill also passed unanimously. Chien said that the Rules Bill is usually the first bill passed each legislative year, as it governs how SGA runs meetings. 

He noted that though the bill is largely similar to last year’s, some clauses were modified. For instance, Williams explained that the Executive Board will convene at least once a semester in order to better distribute their responsibilities.

Williams also mentioned in her interview that other members of SGA worked over the summer to prepare for this academic year. Senior Class President Pavan Patel worked with administrators to allot $27 in laundry cash each month for students living in residence halls. In addition, Sophomore Class President Nathan Mudrak helped organize the Activism Fair, to ensure students are informed about the upcoming national elections. 

CSE is also preparing for upcoming freshman and senior class council elections. 

Ahmed said there will be information sessions Sept. 10-11 in Charles Commons. Voting will occur between Thursday, Sept. 19 and Wednesday, Sept. 25. 

In addition to electing a freshman class council, there will be an election to fill a senior class council vacancy. Williams declined to name the senator who resigned. 

Chien said that he was excited to begin working with this year’s SGA group.

Williams echoed Chien’s sentiments.

“We have a really engaged group this year and the dynamic will be a lot better,” she said. “We will also continue on the good work that was done last year.”

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