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Gruscinski, Falvey face tough goals to achieve

Liz Harter | Thursday, December 11, 2008

When Mickey Gruscinski and Sarah Falvey ran for Saint Mary’s student body president and vice president last Spring, they set goals of guaranteeing reliable wireless Internet access in residence halls, keeping the Student Center open longer and improving and increasing relations between student government and the student body.

Falvey said the Board of Governance (BOG), which she and Grusckinski lead, cannot easily accomplish these goals, but they have started on them and BOG has helped them work towards achieving them.

While the pair didn’t realize they had no control over wireless access when they campaigned, they have made progress on their other campaign promises throughout the past semester.

For the second semester in a row they have extended the operating hours of the Student Center during finals week and, depending on student reaction, Gruscinski told The Observer that they plan to move forward and work to extend the hours for next semester as well.

They have also made an effort to inform the student body that BOG meetings are open to the public and tried to increase communication between BOG and students.

“Many students have been involved throughout the semester and expressed an interest in the political process which I think is great,” Gruscinski said. “I think we’re doing all we can do to accomplish our goals.”

Gruscinski said she is most proud of the fact that the pair has increased transparency within student government and the College.

“Every student has a right to know what happens in student government and student government should constantly be listening to the student body,” she said. “I think we’ve given [the students] an opportunity to be heard.”

Issues resolved

Aside from working on their campaign goals this semester, the pair was also confronted with the task of leading a student government embroiled in controversy surrounding the Student Government Association (SGA) budget.

The issues stemmed from the inclusion of a stipend in the budget that was allotted for the SGA Executive Board, of which Gruscinski and Falvey are a part. The budget lays out the allocation of funding for the $243,040 that SGA receives from the $160 student government fee each full-time student is required to pay in her tuition. The stipend would have come from this same funding.

Falvey had no comment on the topic, but Gruscinski said she is “thrilled” that students cared enough about the issue to get involved.

Prior to BOG meetings dealing with the stipend, few to no students attended the open meetings that take place each week. During the second week of discussion on the topic, though, 25 members of the student body attended the weekly meeting to voice their concerns.

Gruscinski publicly spoke out against the stipend in October saying she felt taking a stipend from student activity fees was unethical.

“Of course everyone knows I was against receiving the stipend for personal reasons, so I don’t need to re-hash that,” Gruscinski said. “I feel like I did my best to represent the students, and it was great to see their passion for the issue.”

The issue was resolved after a survey was distributed to the student body through e-mail. Gruscinski said 557 students, which is almost one third of the student body, voted and the majority did not agree with the stipend at an October BOG meeting.

Upon receiving this information, the stipend was removed from the budget.

Gruscinski said she hopes students remain interested in student government and thinks that if student government continues to utilize surveys they will stay interested.

“I think the students will want to participate and make their voices heard,” she said.

Room for improvement

Falvey said she thinks more work may have been done on their campaign platforms, especially extending the student center hours, had the issues with the budget been resolved sooner.

“[It] was a big goal for this semester, but fell through the cracks since the budget dominated conversation for so long,” she said.

Next semester, however, she and Gruscinski will turn their focus towards policy, as one of their main projects will be restructuring the Student Government Constitution.

“I’m still working on the constitution with the Constitution Committee and hope to have that done with more clarity and regulation than the current constitution [next semester],” Falvey, who is the head of the committee, said.

Falvey said she is “pleased” with what she and Gruscinski have accomplished in their administration so far as they were the only ticket to run last year.

For her part, however, Gruscinski hopes to address the lack of respect she feels is present among her board.

“I think there needs to be more respect at the [BOG] meetings,” she said. “There are a lot of side conversations happening while other people are talking. As leaders of the student body, we should at least be listening to our fellow student government members. I will be addressing this issue very soon because it has gone on long enough.”