Oppman, Lorenc check in on goals, evaluate progress thus far
Martha Reilly | Thursday, December 7, 2017
When seniors Bailey Oppman and Lydia Lorenc officially took the wheel in their roles as president and vice president of Saint Mary’s Student Government Association (SGA) in August, they refused to let any roadblocks make them stop short of pursuing their goals.
“It was a bit of an adjustment at first because we unknowingly found out during Welcome Week that our advisor was resigning,” Oppman said. “We had no idea. So we kind of got thrown into a situation where we’re planning Welcome Week, and we’re doing all these things for the [first years], and then we had no one really there backing us up or to ask questions to.”
Relying on one another throughout this particular challenge, Lorenc said, strengthened the pair’s bond.
“I think we have a good separation between friendship and SGA,” she said. “We get a lot of work done, but we also know how to have fun and relax. We’re in the same major and a lot of the same classes, so we are together a lot, but I think we also share a lot of the same morals and values and goals, so when it comes to getting things done, it’s really not hard to do.”
The duo’s first achievement, Oppman said, was updating SGA’s policies — such as allocating more money to class council and providing board executives with larger stipends — to best serve the community.
“We’ve been working really hard to make this year our own, so we started off the year by taking a look at some of the bylaws — just because they’ve been in place for so long, and they haven’t really been changed recently,” she said. “We messed with the numbers of our budget and re-allocated some of that money, so now that it’s more of a fair distribution, I think that’s going to allow groups on campus to plan more events for the student body.”
Though the financial adjustments are new, the team also relies on already-established frameworks and initiatives to accomplish their goals. Lorenc said deciding whether or not to continue Monthly Mingle events — which last year’s McCarthy-Dingler administration initiated in an effort to openly address pertinent issues — was an easy choice.
“I think they were probably more well-planned [this year] than they were last year because … last year they came up with the idea but didn’t really quite know how to carry it out,” she said. “This year, I think our [community justice] co-chairs are doing a really good job.”
These gatherings, Oppman said, encourage students to speak up on relevant topics or occurrences, such as dating violence or stalking awareness, so peers can foster constructive dialogue and learn from one another. Instances of injustice and intolerance that students have encountered on campus — such as racist graffiti — may warrant more serious responses, she said.
“I had lunch with [College] President [Jan] Cervelli a few weeks ago, and we talked about doing an open forum with her,” Oppman said. “We’re going to invite the student body, and she’s just going to answer questions, so it’ll be an open discussion. I think, in light of things like [racist graffiti], that will be really helpful because even though we’re planning on doing it next semester, I think it will still be relevant at that point in time.”
Instances of bullying and exclusion, Oppman said, demand a swift response clarifying the College’s mission of promoting sisterhood while reinforcing the fact that hatred will not be accepted on campus.
“As leaders, we need to take a clear stance that that isn’t okay,” she said. “ … If we make sure that our actions speak volumes to what we promote and what we believe, and if we think about that and the events that we’ve planned, if we’re very conscious about the message we’re sending to the student body, then I think we’ve accomplished that task.”
Oppman said she and Lorenc also hope to inform students about how to appropriately react to injustices they may experience, as the duo aims to foster a safe and knowledgeable campus environment.
“We hosted an event with [the Belles Against Violence Office], and it was all around catcalling, and if you’re harassed, what can you do, who can you reach out to if you need help, but also how to respond in those situations,” she said. “Maybe not everyone wants to ignore it. Maybe they do want to confront it, but how do you do that in a safe way? It’s a small way that we tried to promote how the girls on our campus can respond to harassment and things like that.”
Lorenc said she and Oppman aim to make the College a more sustainable environment, even by less noticeable efforts such as eventually implementing hand-dryers in the student center.
Oppman said significant progress has been made in looking to expand Munch Money to more local dining locations, though this goal has not yet been brought to fruition.
“We’re hoping to make some more headway with that next semester,” she said. “The owner of Dunkin’ Donuts is the same owner of Jimmy John’s that we get our Munch Money from, so they’re familiar with the process.”
Providing healthier on-campus food options, Oppman said, was a goal she and Lorenc stated on their platform that seems to have happened without much effort, since the College’s new Angela Athletic and Wellness Complex will offer nutritious post-workout snacks. She said improving the College and implementing practices or opportunities that benefit students has been rewarding beyond measure, so she was pleased that student government leaders from the tri-campus community were recognized for their hard work at a Notre Dame football game.
“It was fun being there with the presidents and vice presidents of the other schools, because there’s this unity there,” she said. “You want to represent your school well, and you feel so proud because you worked so hard to get to where you are.”
Though continuing initiatives of previous student leaders has proven effective for Oppman and Lorenc in terms of fostering dialogue, more urgent and original responses to crises such as sexual assault and racism are lacking. The pair’s emphasis on transparency and receptiveness to feedback, though, serves as evidence of its commitment to promoting an inclusive atmosphere, as does the headway it has made with its sustainability and dining proposals.