“The sky is the limit” is the new motto for this year’s Saint Mary’s Student Government Association (SGA).
President Rachael Chesley and vice president Laura Smith, both seniors, said their main goals for this year are to establish transparent and effective communication between student clubs and SGA and to be a strong advocate for the students.
“I think one of the biggest things is that SGA is kind of the umbrella organization for clubs on campus,” Smith said. “Our big point is to really communicate effectively with them so that they know they can come to us, or if they have any questions or need resources, we have commissioners to represent the students of the college.”
SGA is focusing on communication between clubs. There will be a club social event where club presidents and vice presidents will be able to interact. This way they will be able to have a basis to collaborate on events and meetings, Smith said.
In regard to the communication between student government and clubs, Chesley and Smith have developed a finance committee, a new sub-committee of the SGA board.
In the past, clubs presented their cases to the big board at the weekly meetings for funding from SGA, but the finance committee will now review these cases.
“We kind of realized that [the old system] was wasting time, because the big board wasn’t able to really focus on the needs of the student body,” Smith said. “They were just handing out money every week.”
Chesley and Smith said they hope this will allow the big board to focus on other pressing issues of the student body.
“We want SGA to become known for sponsoring clubs, but also really being an advocate for the student body on issues such as [the co-exchange meal program],” Smith said.
The finance committee will consist of the executive president, vice president, treasurer and secretary, the chief of staff and the campus clubs commissioner. The committee meets once a week.
New bylaws were established with the creation of the new committee. If students believe they deserve more than the committee has allotted, there is an appeals process in which the clubs can appeal to the SGA board at the weekly SGA meetings.
“We are trying to make everything really fluid and fair,” Chesley said.
Meg Griffin, the treasurer of the committee, will be hosting a financial seminar for the first time where all of the clubs treasurers and one other executive member are required to attend. They will go over how to fill out allotment fund forms, requirements for asking for funds and fundraising ideas.
“Overall, we have on established goal: to take action,” Chesley said.
Currently, SGA is doing its part with the co-ex issue. The co-exchange program, which used to give 75 meal tickets daily on a first-come, first-serve basis to Saint Mary’s students to dine on Notre Dame’s campus, changed at the beginning of the school year, placing more restrictions on who could get the passes.
“We have met twice with Karen Johnson [vice president of Student Affairs] since we found out about the situation the Saturday before classes began,” Chesley said. “We have also contacted Notre Dame Food Services but are waiting to hear back from them to set up a meeting to further discuss the issue.”
There will be an open forum Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. where Johnson and Barry Bowles, director of dining services. will be able to address students’ questions.
“I know how aggravating of a situation it is, but I hope that people come [to the forum] in the most mature, respectful manner possible,” Chesley said. We are hoping that students will come; we know they are angry and upset.”
Smith agreed and said students should present their thoughts in a collective manner so they can be heard.
One new addition to SGA is the international commissioner, who will act as a liaison between SGA and the international and transfer students.
Chesley and Smith have optimism for SGA’s role in the current school year.
“We are having a blast so far,” Chesley said. “It’s been challenging, but fun. We are excited to see what we can accomplish this year.”
The co-ex situation was not the smoothest of starts, but it has provided an opportunity for SGA to demonstrate their support for the student body, she said.
Chesley and Smith said they believe all of their initiatives this early in the semester will provide a foundation for this year.
“Once we get the clubs their budgets for the year, and the financial board going, we can really hit the ground running,” Chesley said.