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SGA adjusts to new structure, promotes programming

Bridget Feeney | Friday, December 7, 2012

Grade: A-

The board has responded well to the new structure. However, not enough attention has been given to the smaller clubs and organizations on campus.


The revamped Student Government Association (SGA) spent this year adapting to its new structure while incorporating new initiatives into its traditional programming. The new SGA layout, approved by last year’s leadership, took effect at the start of this semester.
Student body president Maureen Parsons said this year’s primary task has been to complete this restructuring.
The result, she said, has been positive.
“We have been working hard to lay a strong foundation for what the new SGA will look like and how it will operate,” she said. “It is making SGA more efficient and successful.”
Under the previous model, SGA was one governing body that encompassed all its members – executives, class board presidents and representatives from Student Diversity Board, the Residence Hall Association and Student Activities Board.
Parsons said the new layout allows all these members to be more vocal in contributing their ideas.
“Now we have five councils comprised of class boards, committee chairs, the big boards, Student Academic Council and clubs,” she said. ” Now clubs have a bigger role within SGA. The Senate was also added to the new structure.”
With this new structure, Parsons said the reorganization has required some adjustments.
“With the new structure, we’ve had to shift responsibilities and take a look at who should be doing what,” she said. “Each person’s role on SGA is more clearly defined. This allows each area of SGA to really focus on their purpose and work to get things done.”
Vice president of external affairs Kat Sullivan also praised the group’s reorganization.
“The new structure has been working really well,” she said. “Having different groups for each Council … makes our meetings more focused and productive.”

Ringing in the Belle Tower
Saint Mary’s students experienced another major change this year when the College integrated a new online network called the Belle Tower, which features the all-school events calendar and online club information. The network hosts OrgSync, a new software that Parsons said is a unique way for students, clubs and administrators to communicate. Students were encouraged to sign up on the Belle Tower beginning in October.
 “Many students compare it to a Facebook for clubs,” she said. “Clubs can advertise events and communicate with members and other students through the portal.”
The move to the Belle Tower was a joint effort between SGA and Student Involvement and Multicultural Services (SIMS).
“SIMS approached SGA to participate in various webinars to decide which program best suited Saint Mary’s,” she said. “So, this summer I worked with SIMS in picking a portal.
Sullivan said the initiative has been a great addition to the campus and hopes students take advantage of the new offerings.
“[OrgSync] utilizes technology in a way that we haven’t before,” she said. “Club presidents, big boards and SGA members are able to use this resource to plan and advertise events. This transition will make things like budgeting, planning events and organizing group members much easier.
Leslie Wilson, vice president of internal affairs, said while the switch to the Belle Tower has brought some difficulties, it has been an overall success.
“It has been an adjustment for the student body – but it is definitely a necessary adjustment,” she said. “The main issue was and will be to get students comfortable with navigating the site and encouraging them to check it regularly to see what is going on campus.”

Promoting programming
Parsons said how SGA has maintained its focus on social issues.
“At the beginning of the year, we cosponsored [the] Belles Against Violence Office kickoff to make sure girls were aware of the resources available to them in regard to relationship violence,” she said.
“Support a Belle, Love a Belle” was another important week-long initiative, which Parsons said was designed “to show support to our sisters struggling with anxiety and depression.”
While much of campus winds down for break, Parsons said the SGA is planning ahead for a busy spring semester.
 “We want to make sure that clubs and organizations aren’t planning too many events on the same days because we don’t want our organizations to compete.”
Wilson said the communication and feedback from students is crucial to SGA’s goals for next semester, and she envisioned OrgSync playing a bigger role in alerting the campus about events and other news.
“We have recently sent out evaluations to all SGA members to hear their thoughts on how the semester has gone so far and what we can do to move forward next semester,” she said.
Two of next semester’s biggest events, Love Your Body Week and Heritage Week, already have some events planned, Parsons said.
“We are really excited about Heritage Week this year,” she said. “This year’s theme is connecting the tradition of the College to the present and taking it into the future. “
Though the year has been marked with many changes and transitional periods, Sullivan said everything has gone well and according to plan.
“I am really happy with the way this year is going,” she said. “I think SGA will always be a work in progress but things have been going well so far. We are constantly asking how we can move forward and learn from our past and I feel that is so important to any organization.”