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Student government wishlist

Staff Editorial | Friday, February 13, 2009

Saint Mary’s student body president and vice president elections are taking place at the College on Monday. For the second year in a row, the race is uncontested as one of the two announced tickets, juniors Mallory Price and Katie Lewis, dropped out of the race early Thursday morning.

Barring a majority of Saint Mary’s students voting for the abstain ticket, junior Jenny Hoffman and sophomore Meg Griffin will become the next president and vice president, respectively. We hope and are confident that the women will not allow their uncontested ticket to result in complacency, but will instead continue working hard to address the following important issues in their upcoming term:

u Transparency – One of the biggest problems Saint Mary’s students have had with student government in the past few years is that the students don’t know what is going on. This became an issue when eight students took a large stipend from student funds two years ago. The stipend, essentially, is payment for serving in student government. This year’s Board of Governance (BOG) Executive Board tried to do the same. This caused an uproar when students heard what BOG was trying to do. One of the reasons the stipend issue received such a passionate response from the students is that they felt BOG was underhanded and deceptive in trying to pass the stipend. With a bit of prodding, this year’s BOG has done a better job letting students know what they are doing, especially with funds, a practice which next year’s leaders should continue. But they could take it one step further by keeping lines of communication open between students and BOG.

u Resolving issues in a timely fashion – It took BOG four weeks to approve the Student Government Association budget this school year because of opposition to the Executive Board stipend. Many students felt strongly about the issue, which stalled the budget as the Executive Board balked at removing the stipend and those opposed to the stipend refused to approve the budget. Without an approved budget, funds were frozen and clubs and organizations received their allotments late, forcing them to find outside funding if any of their activities occurred before they received it. Student government needs to find a way to shorten the time it takes to resolve issues such as this, so as to not punish students by withholding or forcing groups to cancel activities.

u Representing the students – While student body president and vice president are lofty titles, the key words of both of them is “student body.” The students fulfilling these jobs are voted into office by the students and should be serving those students. Opening lines of communication between what women at the College want to see and what Student Government does will help BOG better serve the student body. They should pay attention to what students are saying to them and they should speak for the student body. When students on campus were concerned about slow campus security response involving a trespasser near one of the residence halls, BOG missed a perfect opportunity to act on behalf of the students. When something happens on campus that people are concerned about, BOG should be the first to step up and offer ways to resolve the issue by facilitating discussions between administrators and students.

u Respect – Respect is crucial to accomplishing anything as a student government, whether it be on the part of the students or those serving the students. Many members of this year’s BOG have side conversations or roll their eyes while other commissioners or students raise concerns. The level of respect at these meetings, and in any interactions with students, needs to be increased.

Although these suggestions may seem simple, their implementation by Hoffman and Griffin will be critical in improving relationships between the Saint Mary’s student body, and the representatives they elect.