It’s too easy to skate through Trinity University without ever realizing the extent to which the Student Government Association (SGA) has a hand in improving the Trinity experience. With SGA elections on the horizon, we remind students to engage their representatives and voice their concerns in SGA meetings “” and, of course, in the Trinitonian.
In one of the first editorials published this semester, the Trinitonian editors claimed that SGA functions primarily as a funds-apportioning body. That judgment was premature. We’ve attended every public SGA meeting held this semester and have seen the breadth of concerns that the senate addresses.
Every meeting begins with an opportunity for guests to present comments to SGA. Unfortunately, the public meetings, which occur in Coates’ Waxahachie Room every Monday evening at 6 p.m., are poorly attended.
Two students came to the Sept. 11 meeting, when David Tuttle, dean of students, defended his controversial decision to revoke residence hall access for students living off-campus. A former senator attended the Sept. 29 meeting to offer feedback on proposed changes to the SGA constitution.
One student running for the senate came to the meeting on Oct. 23 just to see what SGA meetings are like. (Of the other three students, one was a former SGA senator, and another has since joined the senate. Insular crowd.)
After opening the floor to guest comments, the meeting proceeds to the weekly “˜Campus Climate Check,’ in which senators offer updates on the student groups for whom they act as liaisons. Juan Luevanos, for instance, checks in with international students on a regular basis and shares their thoughts and concerns.
More students ought to reach out to their representatives. The senators are putting up a good effort of representing diverse interests on campus, but there’s only so much five people can do to keep tabs on classes each composed of over 600 students.
After these discussions, the senate hears funding proposals. Included in the cost of attending Trinity University is a $150 student activity fee; every student’s contribution is pooled together and SGA is tasked with doling it out to the students and organizations that submit requests and demonstrate responsible, valuable uses for the money.
This is an important service that makes possible most of campus’ most beloved events and services. If you’ve gone to an event on campus, there’s a good chance it was funded in large part by SGA.
After the funding requests have been heard, the senate attends to new business. Most of the meetings this semester have been occupied by extensive deliberations over revisions to the SGA constitution.
The senators have taken this project seriously; juniors Callie Struby and Amulya Deva have been poring over this dinosaur document since the summer. Some of these are common-sense updates; others were motivated by the controversies that followed the April decision to deny Greek Council its annual budget.
All of the proposed changes, we think, are good ideas. But they’ve not been set in place just yet. Students will be voting to approve these amendments during the upcoming SGA election period. This editorial board appreciates the edits proposed, but we have a procedural concern: How can the student body, as a whole, make an informed decision about constitutional changes if so few of us know what the constitution was like and how the new version will differ?
If we’ve not yet made it clear, we hold the value of civic engagement in high regard. SGA’s efforts are rarely appreciated to the extent they ought to be; its senators and officers put in long hours and hard work to serve the campus community. Students owe it to themselves and one another to attend SGA meetings and offer their input on the issues the senate considers.
Students also ought to consider participating in SGA more, too. It’s too late to change this, but the people running for president and vice president are unopposed. Each year the first-year, sophomore and junior classes each elect five of their own to serve as senators, but only the juniors will have a competition ahead of them. The five first-years and the five sophomores on the ballot are shoe-ins by default.
You don’t have to be a free-market fundamentalist to see the value in having a competitive election. Disagreement is the heart of democracy; there’s no way to express your own interests and desires if you don’t get to choose between representatives.
Lucky for us all, the sort of student who runs for SGA is the sort of student with the interests of the student body at heart. Keep an eye on your inboxes this week for more information about voting online and in person in Coates University Center.
Staff editorials and articles compiled by multiple staff members appear here. To view an individual staff member's posts, find his or her name in our staff indices.