An Obscured Pursuit of JusticeBy Sean McGrady • Nov 19th, 2008 • Category: Student Life
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?