An Obscured Pursuit of Justice

If a student government does not serve its students, can it be called a government? Plato argued that a politician’s pursuit of justice involves assisting the people, but how is this possible when a government isolates itself from the heart of its endeavors?

A student nick-named Bean asked, “What’s the SGA?” Despite their number of events, the SGA remains largely unknown. Another student named Brian Hedge confessed, “I know very little [about the SGA], if anything.”

Hedge, a student with frequent presence in the lounge, said what most students are thinking: “It [The SGA] seems more like a club than a government.”

The majority of students agree. While they appreciate charities (the Blood Mobile blood drive) and festivities (costume parties and live music), students scream for actual help. Events are great for the community but fluff they comprise an entire agenda.

“Student activities can handle events. We elected those [SGA] officials to make a difference,” opined Justin Torbert. Torbert and fellow learners share the same idea: making a student’s life easier should be the top concern for any student government.

How would the SGA do that? Lee Alley explained, “Be more personal with the students.” In other words, interact with people. Talk with people.

Students are overflowing with ideas. Because rising book prices are a common concern among them, Alley suggested a credit program. “Maybe you could get credit for future books.” Students also believe credit plans are worth investigating for cafeteria food.

Torbert added, “It’d be nice if the SGA could go between us and the faculty to help students.” After explaining a grade disagreement with a teacher he clarified, “They should be intermediaries between students and teachers.” FERPA (Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act) states that student records are private, so the SGA is not allowed to interfere with grade work, but perhaps a dialogue between faculty and student government could help each group see the others’ viewpoints.

Coincidentally, the SGA constitution has an article for student-faculty relations. Article 2 section C states: “[The purpose of this organization shall be] To act as a channel of communication and cooperation between the students, faculty, and administration concerning the attitudes and opinions of the student body in order to achieve mutual agreement for the betterment of the college.”

If the SGA refrains from interaction with its students, how can this be accomplished?

An SGA senator stated in the Knight Rider,” We invite any and all [students] to contact the SGA via our website.”

The obvious needs to be asked. Why is a website required? Public websites serve as convenient communication and easy storage, but true interactivity does not occur. Nobody understands devotion or assertiveness by looking at a computer screen. People appreciate the time and respect they are given through conversation, or other practical methods of communication.

Shafaq Sarwar said, “I would like to see information on the SGA more available; from what they do and what rules they follow. If they’re not willing to advertise what they’re doing or how they’re doing it, it shows a lack of dedication.”

Students can find minutes from each SGA meeting through the SGA website or a student’s personal Blackboard account.

If Sarwar finds these hidden notes, she will still be disappointed. The notes taken during meetings are often in fragments with little detail. For example, what is the Leadership Trip? When the SGA mentions lounge in the notes, what are they talking about? Are they overseers? Grunts? What Town Hall meeting are they conducting?

The minutes do not answer these questions. Minutes are bullets, scraps of information that help the SGA, not the students. Students stare at the minutes in confusion, then wonder why they bothered.

In order to understand the workings of the SGA, people need detail, not a report of what gets called into motion and who seconds it. Why not write a synopsis of each meeting in paragraph form? The SGA secretary could even highlight the ideas, then attach the synopses to a large information board and place it in the lounge. The other side of the board can hold the SGA constitution so students can be familiar with their government’s goals.

Students already have methods of finding events. The SGA information board would only contain information about what the student government is doing, and possibly, why. It should also help students track the progress of helpful ideas like the Cans for Gas project. Cans for Gas represents the type of help the students need and the innovation they require, but how can students learn about it? Though NRCC has a magazine, the SGA has a responsibility to inform everyone about its ideas and progress.

That responsibility carries the same weight as fulfilling its job. If the SGA fails in communicating with the students, if they fail in helping the students they are sworn to assist, are they worthwhile? Do we need a student government?

About Sean McGrady

A fourth semeseter student in NRCC, Sean McGrady is more famously referred to as White-E or "That Guy with the Hair." That Guy with the Hair enjoys reading, writing, discussion and celebrating the invention of underwear.
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4 Responses to An Obscured Pursuit of Justice

  1. Dear Shaun,

    Shaun I know you are well aware of who I am so I do not feel I should explain myself. I myself am a writer of many things and love to read people’s different styles of writing. The writing you are putting on the paper is often a little too opinionated, it actually offends people. My wife, after I talked with her and explained to her that you were entitled your opinion and that even though it bothered her, she needed to understand you were allowed that, but she tried to make up by coming by you and saying hi and letting it roll and you dusted her off like she was scum and then turned her in because you felt as though she was threatening you. She actually wanted to let it all go, she really cares for her job in the SGA and the students also, she spends a lot of time trying to work on things that in your article the SGA are not doing. Take into consideration that some of the people are doing this for the first time and are also learning the best ways to relate correctly and to do the best by the students. I don’t just say these things because I am Melissa’s husband, but I also am affiliated with the SGA and I know personally that each one of our members bring there own skills to the table. As stated before, some of us are new to the jobs we have and are trying hard to do the best by our students that we can, and with experience get better. What you are doing is not building positive moral for the SGA and the students themselves, you are basically trying to defeat us before our rightful chance is given, when students receive your writings they develop a biased opinion of the truth due to what you write, which also is only a biased opinion. Think of it this way, you are a great writer indeed so why not use your skills to influence positively and not so negatively. You are a column writer not a critic, you are meant to inspire not start a riot, thank of these things and possibly understand that the people you write so negatively about not only are the SGA they are also human beings. As I said before you are very skilled and will someday do well with your writing, use this as a stepping stool to enlighten minds in ways that others cant, not demean and drop the self esteem of others, because remember words are some of the most painful weapons we as humans have, sometimes they even hurt worse than guns themselves. As for my wife she does not want to have this tension with you and please stop singling her out she tried to be nice to you and it was very unprofessional to brush her off as you did, you make comments that some members of the SGA are as educated monkeys. but when you yourself behave in a manner such as you did aren’t you behaving quite the same way, a person with a mind but no reason? Maybe in your next column, instead of demeaning the SGA you could take the time to understand the individuals that are involved in it and the heart and soul they bring to what they do, I know there is many a day that me and Melissa go over our constitution trying to find ways to do more under our laws and to improve as much as we can, but face it Sean we have been in office a little bit over half a semester (as well as the others) and things just cannot change as dramatically as you expect, even if we want it to it takes time. I myself am working on a project that could possibly take up to two years, but when it is accomplished it will benefit the entire school body. My wife is trying adamantly to improve security in and out of the school, which when done will improve the safety of the school and the students. She also has been pushing a plan to keep the school cleaner and with the president of the SGA a smoking plan that will be better for the non smokers, understand that all these are very positive projects with only the students in mind. As far as the book prices, what was said in your article was an excellent idea but it will take time I will look into it myself, because I too know that the book prices are outrageous. In closing understand that we are people too and that what you are doing to this association will ultimately cause members to lose the drive they have to do well by the students and lower their own personal self esteem. I am in the SGA office quite a bit and if you heard all the things that are discussed outside of meetings you might would retract some of the nasty things you say about the SGA not caring for the students. What I see is a great group of individuals coming together to create a change, to make a difference, to lead and support. How can we do this if people like you never give us this chance? Sorry this is so long Sean and understand that I think nothing wrong of you and nor does my wife, these are just some of my own personal opinions to what you are doing and maybe a response to your letters. Remember this Sean, a great writer can inspire the world with what he writes, or he can cause it to go into pure chaos, maybe you need to figure out what you want to do with your talent. Next time my wife comes to you in the hall and says, “Hi” please even if there is tension be courteous back and don’t treat her as if she is lower than you, because remember we are all people and we all deserved to be treated with respect.

    Sincerely,
    Jason Surratt

  2. Steven says:

    to Mr. Surratt:

    okay i don’t see my first comment here so ill retype what i had.

    1) this isn’t an opinion article. his last article on the sga was but this one isn’t. he’s only representing what students have to say. this is what WE think. get over it.

    2) it’s “Sean”

    3) i was going to a class one day and i had to go through the lounge. i watched Melissa (your wife im guessing) slam a frickin juice bottle in front of Sean’s face and insult him. he didn’t say a word after she did that which was weird because he always replies fast. she slapped her hand on his shouldor when she did it so i don’t blame him for rubbing his shouldor. she might of had c4 the way she was talking.

    i saw it happen dude. is that what you’re talking about? because if it is i think you need to get both sides of the story.

    4) he’s right. it’s cool to do a lot of events but uncool to do only that. if the sga is actually doing really important stuff i think we would know about it or should know. he’s right that you should talk to us a lot and let us know what’s happening. your “minutes” suck. if the safe smoking thing is really being planned and worked on why shouldn’t we know about it? the paper is cool and all but you need to make info available.

    the board idea is awesome. ill bet if you talked to students you would already have one or be talking about it.

    5) Sean wasn’t being a jerk in this article he was talking about OUR opinions about YOU. if he didn’t get mean when your wife verbally assaulted him i doubt he would say you really suck. plus he’s not using his writing skills to inspire “chaos” he’s just reporting what WE have to say.

    6) you can’t even spell his name right. you are obviously biased man. try doing that thing Sean suggested. talking to people. i bet it would help. start by talking to him. i don’t know him much but he obviously has a better idea what we think than you do.

  3. Erin Long says:

    In response to this article and it’s replies, I’d like to point out that, while some students may be unaware of the work done by the SGA and it’s purpose, this article only cites the opinion or four students (including that of the author).

    I know many members of the SGA personally, and I can attest to their good works. For instance, after the Blood Drive that the SGA put on, there was a large amount of leftover food. Rather than distributing it to the members, Melissa stood in the cold, prepared the food, and gave it to the students at no cost.

    One day, between classes, I wandered into the SGA office and spent roughly an hour talking to Joey (President), Emily (Secretary), Sarah and Aundrea (both Senators). In that hour, we had a fun conversation: we got to know each other, and we discussed several aspects of student life. Things that they understand because, they too, are students.

    Rather than pointing a judgemental finger at the SGA for being distant and unavailable, students would do better taking the initiative to get to know the leaders they elect. Goverment cannot work for the people without the assistance of the people. I know about the Cans for Gas project, the Clean Campus project, the smoking issue, and other issues because, as I student, I took the initiative to discover what’s going on on my campus. I reccomend that students get to know their leaders before electing them, so as to make educated decisions. Learn who they are, what their goals are, and how you can assist them.

    In closing, I’d like to reiterate the sentiments of Mr. Surratt and remind you that members of the SGA are “people” too. And not only “people”, but students, with their own hectic work and class schedules. Give them a break and think about what it would be like to add SGA meetings and projects to your already overflowing schedule.

    Happy Holidays,
    Erin

  4. Jenny says:

    Erin,

    Including the author, there are six* people sharing opinions. And the number of people in this article does not denounce a simple truth: relatively few students know about the SGA. What would the number matter, anyway? Your statement concerning population doesn’t contest the author’s statement, it acts as a red herring.

    So does your story explaining your fun-filled hour of talking with the SGA. Are they approachable? Sure. Should they be more than reactionary? Yes, the actual issue. They ought to be taking any venue possible of communicating with us. If they weren’t paid for their work, that statement would be less valid, and we could more easily say “student apathy is at fault here.”

    This article can be best summarized with: “the SGA has a responsibility to inform everyone about its ideas and progress.” The author and several students believe that the SGA needs to be more out-going and give people easier access to information. You only address that by saying, “Rather than pointing a judgemental finger at the SGA for being distant and unavailable, students would do better taking the initiative to get to know the leaders they elect. Goverment cannot work for the people without the assistance of the people.”

    But you miss something crucial within your idealistic statement: convenience is key for people to assist the government. The SGA had few, if any, methods of sharing information other than tracking each individual member down and talking with them when this article was published. Now? We at least have a progress board, and student interviews. The minutes still lack explanatory information and teachers haven’t been enlisted as help, nor have good advertisement methods been adopted. But there’s progress because of this article you allude to as a judgmental finger.

    Your remark that the SGA is filled with humans is both obvious and a red-herring. Are they humans? Yes. Are they adding to their schedule? Yes. Are they doing work that merits money? As long as that question exists, I would hope nobody gives them a break. Are they communicating to the best of their ability with the students, giving them easy access to information? I have yet to find a font containing specific information regarding the SGA.