The SGA Response to Claims By Guest Writer Meagan Willis

As the Student Government Association, it has come to our attention that there are several people who are dissatisfied with the work the SGA does to represent and lead the students of New River Community College. We appreciate the criticism, but in order to make a fair judgment, you must come to view things from our perspective too. The SGA has been running in as many directions with as many interests as there are members to support them. We strive to support the student body in every way we can. There are a few points that an anonymous person, someone who hung several posters suggesting the SGA’s low quality, has voiced about the SGA which I would like to respond to.

The first charge, that the election was influenced by current SGA members, is ludicrous. Students were encouraged to vote by many of the SGA members, and a lack of student votes might better show how disinterested a good portion of the student body is in the actions of the SGA. Each member of the SGA voted and some took their personal laptops out to the students to encourage those students to vote. This action was not meant to be perceived as an attempt to set up the votes in one persons favor, but as a way to encourage the students to vote. Every student who voted had their own opinions for candidates. Many of our opinions differed regarding who was best for the positions available.

The second accusation, that many of the SGA projects are uncompleted, is equally preposterous. Each member of the SGA is required to sponsor a project and complete it to the best of their ability.

The following projects are just a few of the many that the SGA has worked on last semester.

  • We developed Cans for Gas
  • We created the golf team which will be competing in a tournament soon
  • We established a weekly survey of student concerns
  • New River Chapter of Democrats of America
  • We sponsored the Halloween costume contest
  • We held a meeting to show the student body our efforts on their behalf, and to accept ideas from them. This meeting was attended only by SGA members and a single Knight Rider reporter
  • We began working on a shuttle from the Christiansburg site to the Dublin campus to help students who could not get from one campus to another. This project is still a work in progress but is closer to completion
  • We successfully completed 176 cards for troops plus donated $50 for shipping them to our troops overseas
  • We began a campus clean up committee to preserve the beauty of the campus
  • The existence of this very paper is due to Sarah Polan, a current senator elected by the students

If you would like to see a more complete list, please stop by our office and we would be proud to show you many others. If these are not the projects you think we should do please tell us. We are open to change and would like to better your experience here at New River.

The third accusation, that the SGA does not have enough advisors, is completely untrue. Two faculty members sponsor the SGA, while many clubs have only one advisor. Our advisors are Ben Kramer and Peggy Taylor. Peggy Taylor has been an advisor to the SGA since the year 2000. Ben has been an advisor to the SGA since be began working at New River Community college as the Activities counselor. One advisor is present for each meeting we have. There is no need for more than two advisors to the SGA.

The fourth accusation is that the SGA receives tuition reimbursement for service. When the SGA was initially created by the student body there was no tuition reimbursement for the services given. The fact that the SGA was on a volunteer basis was laudable, and it was soon observed that there was a low completion rate of SGA projects. Due to this it was decided those who finished a project would receive a reward. The President receives the most tuition reimbursement with twelve credits worth per semester, while senators receive only four credits. The difference is due to the amount of work required of each position.

The SGA needs people with strong character and honest opinions. In the end, when the needs or desires you have are not satisfied, can you truly blame those of us who attempted to better the students of New River by doing what we thought would help? To call us out and give no legitimate reasons why we have been so mistreated is a cowardly thing to do. If one wants to make a change, that person should stand up proudly and be the voice of that change.

We are members of the SGA because we want to work to benefit NRCC. We do not claim to fully represent the students, but we do represent and assist students whenever concerns are voiced. The recent poster “voice of the people” is not, this voice is anonymous and illegitimate. However, whoever you are, come the SGA’s mission! We need all the effort our members can provide, and your energy could both invigorate us and propel our organization to its full potential.

~ Secretary Meagan Willis, SGA

About Sarah Polan

Sarah Polan entered New River Community College in the summer of 2008 at age 16 after being homeschooled her entire life. She had already been a member of the Roanoke Times "Edge" staff for two years at that point. Sarah came to New River with the dream of rebuilding the long forgotten school newspaper and with the help and encouragement of Janet Hanks and the IT staff, the online Knight Rider was born. Sarah has served as editor and contributing writer for three semesters and continues to coordinate and produce the e-paper biweekly. She also edits an on-line national publication for the Boy Scouts of America Southern Region Venturing division and will be contributing an article to the nationally published Scouting magazine blog. She has also provided a student blog post to the student organization VA21. In her spare time, Sarah enjoys traveling in search of her dream college which she will transfer to next year.
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2 Responses to The SGA Response to Claims By Guest Writer Meagan Willis

  1. melissa says:

    I would like to know where the rest of this article is? I guess it was more important to spend all of your time getting Seans articles out, and say to heck with the truth. Meagan spent a lot of time on this article. I guess I should have known better.

  2. Pierce says:

    Managing Ideas

    Something I was reading recently may be of use to the SGA or anyone in a leadership position that is delegating the scarce resources of an organization. Please see the citation at the bottom for more information. Far be it from me to tell anyone what to do, but I would love to see our SGA functioning more efficiently.

    Background

    Let’s look at the SGA as a service-oriented company with the student body as the customer base. As a company the SGA has a great position because they have a corner on the market but the market can respond by picking different individuals to be in the SGA. Therefore, the main objective of the SGA is to run effectively enough to re-elect incumbents. To maintain a competitive edge, all members of the SGA need to work together to satisfy the customer base of the student body. Customers respond to the cumulative product provided by a business. For example, if I go to a restaurant and order a burger, the waitress can be a perfect waitress but if the sandwich arrives with no meat, I’m not satisfied at all. Therefore the success of each member of the SGA is a sum of all the efforts of everyone in the SGA.

    All organizations have a certain capacity to do things. There must be tradeoffs in what that organization chooses to take on and what it cannot take on. Resource allocation is a challenge for the leadership in an organization. It involves identifying how much capacity they have to accomplish things, how effective each idea may be for satisfying the customers, how hard that idea is to implement, and how much capacity each idea will take away from the total capacity.

    As the leadership looks at these things there must be protocol so that decisions are made in a consistent manner. When decisions are left up to the purview of a particular individual without systematic decision making guidelines they can be challenged. A sense of distrust is built between the members of leadership and the customers. The result is dissatisfaction at multiple levels.

    The solution to the plethora of ideas and inconsistent management discussed in the referenced Medtronic case involved two major features:
    1. Rhythm
    2. Project documentation

    Management set a new protocol that said new ideas would be looked at on a certain schedule, evaluated on certain criteria, and would be implemented on a certain time frame. This affected rhythm. Project documentation is straight forward. Simply, the protocol by which decisions were made was a public document. When decisions were made, the basis of these decisions was clearly articulated to all stakeholders.

    Current Issues

    It appears that the SGA has solid protocol for performing some functions. Elections are organized and most stakeholders appear to agree on how they are conducted and the results. However, most of the other SGA activities appear to be conducted ad hoc. There are arguments after the fact because there never was a consensus before an activity took place. Therefore no protocol for conducting the activity was established and a sense of distrust was fostered in people who had different ideas about something.

    This article concerning the SGA mentions how the leadership tries to follow every direction with every idea that comes on board. There is no formal review of whether the SGA really has the capabilities of taking on an activity or not.

    Application of tools

    I think the first step the SGA could take is better documentation. If something is in disagreement, it should be resolvable by saying:
    1. Here was the decision
    2. Here was the protocol
    3. Here are a list of reasons that the decision was made
    4. Therefore it is correct as we agreed upon things being done
    5. Your course of action if dissatisfied with the decision is to request a change to the protocol and this is a scheduled event and will happen next on x date

    This satisfies both rhythm and project documentation. Management behaves in a consistent manner and appears reliable and customers as well as leadership members can trust that something will happen and it will have a predictable outcome.

    I feel that the SGA could be over-extending their resources in terms of time and money. That’s one of those things that’s hard to determine without being part of the management. But if the leadership does try to identify how much time and effort they have to spend over the course of one project cycle, and then makes a reasonable estimate of how much effort each project will take and only accepts as many projects as they have resources, they should have a higher project success rate. Or, if a project fails, it should be more evident as to the nature of the failing, be it a lack of time, money, or act of God. In this case it would be possible to accommodate this issue by planning future projects with more leeway in this area. The number of projects taken on is not as significant as the impact or success of those projects for us, the student customers.

    Christensen, M. 1997. We’ve Got Rhythm! Medtronic Corp.’s Cardiac Pacemaker Business. Harvard Business School Cases. Available online at http://harvardbusinessonline.hbsp.harvard.edu/b02/en/common/item_detail.jhtml?id=698004&referral=1043
    (Also, this might be available for free to students through our friendly NRCC Library, please ask one of the helpful staff there if we have a subscription to Harvard Business School Cases.)