250+ Students Sign SGA Petition

An overview of the changes that led to a complete turnover of the SGA team.

From the April 2018 Gyrene Gazette
By: Max Bodach

The Office of Student Life and Student Government Association maintain a close working relationship in order to enact change in this university. Recently, there has been some controversy across campus because of proposed changes to this relationship, which will be enacted in the upcoming school year. These changes primarily concern the division of labor between the Office of Student Life and SGA, and in turn, the division of their budgets.

In the 2017-18 academic year, Student Government Association managed a budget of around $250,000 and was directly responsible for funding Student Activities Board, Independent Student Initiatives, all Clubs and Households, Development renovation initiatives, and large Culture events such as All Saints Day, Battle of the Bands, and the Annunciation feast. SGA also advocates student concerns to administration in many respects, through areas including Dining Services, Residence Life, and Academic Affairs. The Office of Student Life approves everything that SGA pursues, and all purchases are made through administration corporate cards or check requests. 

The time commitments required to do all this are substantial, and therefore, SGA Executive Board members are stipended. The President receives 100% of room and board, and the Vice-President, Secretary, and Treasurer each receive 50% of room and board. Student Activity Board’s President and Vice-President are stipended at identical rates. 

Next year, this will change. Because administration believes that SGA should transition to primarily being a lobbying group that advocates for student concerns, the Office of Student Life plans to cut SGA and SAB’s budget by approximately two-thirds to around $100,000. Precise figures are not yet available as OSL has not finalized the budget for next year.

OSL will take over most of what SGA and SAB currently do, with the exception of the Culture feasts. To account for this large workload reduction of SGA and SAB, OSL will also cut the Executive Board stipends for SGA and SAB by approximately two-thirds, to $3000 for SGA President and $1500 for other Executive Board members, and $2000 for SAB President and $1000 for SAB Vice-President. 

The administration believes SGA should be less concerned with implementing change and more focused on communicating the needs of the student body to administration. Pointing out the large time commitments required for SGA, administration has noted that many students are unable to serve on SGA due to other activities and commitments such as academics, athletics, or additional extracurriculars. They see that these changes will make SGA more representative, political, and more effective in enacting change across campus, because a wider variety of students may be attracted to serve on SGA. 

Students who see the change as positive believe that the increased responsibility held by administrators will lead to increased quality of events, projects, and changes in the school. However, when administration gave SGA its large budget, it was given with the belief that large responsibilities in the hands of students would give them valuable, real-world, and professional experience that would lead high quality work because of the students’ motivation to serve their peers.

The conflict accompanying these changes arose from the fact that OSL never consulted SGA before making decisions. In February, SGA Executive Board members were informed of the changes and told to begin preparing for them. The administration did not seek to consult SGA when making these changes, stating that the total budget managed by Ave Maria University’s SGA will still be higher than those of many peer institutions in the Newman Guide to Catholic Schools and can still be seen as a favorable agreement for students. 

SGA is not in favor of these changes, arguing that students have done excellent work for the university and that they already represent the entire student body, bringing  its concerns to the administration. SGA also has a history of extreme transparency with its budget and spending records publically available on its website, a highly popular initiative among the student body. Among peer institutions in the Newman Guide to Catholic Schools, AMU’s SGA has the most popular social media accounts and is the most productive student government as measured by bills passed and projects completed. 

In an attempt to revoke these decisions, SGA led a protest. Students from across campus emailed President Towey and Vice-President King and later received a long response from VP King. They also circulated a petition, which received close to 250 signatures in two days before SGA President Stephen Akers met with President Towey and the petition was dropped. As elections for the upcoming school year opened up, many current SGA members were discouraged from continuing on the board because of the change; only one student from SGA ran for a position for the 2018-19 year. 

Next year will be substantially different. However, the administration will continue to make decisions that it believes will positively affect the student body. The next Council is excited to serve students and has big plans for next year. No matter what, the AMU community can still expect a friendly, attentive, and responsive SGA that works for the best interests of all students.

For more information on Student Government Association, visit sga.avemaria.edu

On behalf of the Gyrene Gazette staff, we would like to thank SGA for all that they have done this past year, for both our publicaion as well as the rest of the student body. This past school year, SGA had over 15 common spaces renovated and began the first recycling plan with AveBlue. As a result of their efficiency and hard work, SGA had dramatically improved the council prossess, resulting in over 87% more bills being passed. This is a clear indication of students not only caring for their campus, but of their ability to address the student concerns effectively. A community prospers when every member plays an active role in securing its well being. Thank you, SGA, for doing just that.