Encouraging recycling on campus. Power outlets in the Walker Student Center. White boards rather than chalk boards in library study rooms. Installing a water fountain by the intramural fields. A change machine for laundry money.
All are projects which John Brown University’s Student Government Association has worked on in the past couple of years. The group also selects the student to speak at graduation, organizes the junior-senior banquet and facilitates the homecoming court each year.
There are also potential projects which are currently in the works. A few examples are improving freshman parking, fixing wobbly tables in the Walker Student Center and installing a bouldering wall.
Senior Hannah Cook, student body president, said projects can seem not to make much progress because the bigger ones, such as getting TVs for the Walker Student Center require lots of meetings and coordination. Others sometimes depend on outside groups, such as waiting for the city to install the water fountain.
Things can also be delayed or forgotten because of the high turnover among SGA officers and senators, Cook said. Projects are typically assigned to an individual person, and if the projects takes more than one school year and the person does not stay in SGA, there has to be someone else to pick up the project.
Steve Beers, vice president for student development, said this is a problem that many student government associations struggle with. Another similar problem is that of having unattainable goals.
Students want SGA to be successfully involved with everything on campus, Beers said. In reality, it is hard for such a group—with limited power—to hold that much sway. Thus, SGA officers and senators have to figure out what they can do in a semester or in a year.
“They need to have both short term and long term projects,” Beers said, and they need to realize that sometimes they may only be laying the groundwork for a project that a future group will have to complete.
Freshman Maggie Willis said most of the projects she had heard were connected with SGA seemed to be good in helping to make students’ lives easier. At the same time, Willis wished she knew more about what SGA was doing.
“An email from a well-meaning representative of your class is well and good, but I never know how to respond,” she said. She suggested that SGA could compile a list of possible projects and poll students on which ones they want done.
Naturally, a key component of what SGA does depends on how much budget they have available. Senior Kelsey Daugherty, the SGA vice president of finance and administration, said that SGA’s budget was $10,200 this year. It is not the same every year because the money comes from student fees and thus the total amount varies in relation to how many students are enrolled.
That amount can go toward funding both the projects and the events which SGA has a part in. Any surplus is added to the next year’s budget, Daugherty added.
Cook said that most of the money spent this year, $3,000 from August to February, has gone toward events because the recent projects have been funded by other sources.
Freshman Luke DeYoung is the freshman class senator, and the only freshman member in SGA. He said SGA at the University was different than his high school experience because here they actually do things rather than only suggesting them.
He said that one of the strengths of SGA was the diversity among its members, who represent various classes and majors from across campus. However, he continued, often most of the available seats are not filled.
DeYoung said he wished more people would get involved in SGA. More people could give more ideas and help the group stay accountable to every part of the student body, he added. He also encouraged students to voice their concerns. That is the best way to utilize the available resources.