SGA lacking in senator participation

William Nash, Michael Nelson and Jeremy Patton participate in the Student Government Association senate meeting March 8.

UNA’s Student Government Association senate currently has 17 filled senator seats, but, according to the organization’s code of laws, it could support up to 40, said SGA senator and junior geography and political science major Jordan Brasher.

Brasher is currently the unopposed candidate for next year’s vice president of senate position.

Though the senate could technically have 40 senators—based on the number of students at UNA and the rule that each senator represents 240 students—the cap has been set at 30 until the 2015 reapportionment, said Vice President of Senate and junior professional biology major Emily McCann.

With 13 seats empty, senate has run into some issues, Brasher said.

“The problem is if you have 17 senators on the roster but only 14 are there, it narrows the number of people who can voice their opinions or pass legislation,” she said. “We need two-thirds of senate total to pass expenditures; not two-thirds of the people present.”

McCann said retention problems have made it a constant battle to fill senate seats.

“It might be because we ask a lot of them,” she said. “We have a weekly meeting, and it’s not a fun meeting. It’s serious, and we ask them to write legislation. A lot of students just aren’t up to that.”

Brasher said she has noticed retention problems too.

“We’ll have a lot of people at the (SGA) retreat, but a lot of them just don’t stick with it,” she said. “It’s a lot of work when you first come in. We start asking people to write bills right away. With about six or seven who are constantly putting out legislation, they need a break.”

The time commitment is likely an issue to some potential applicants, McCann said.

“I think it’s tough sometimes for college students to be involved,” she said. “It can be hard to balance Greek life, school and family. They just choose other things.”

Director of Student Engagement and adviser to SGA Tammy Jacques said some students might be deterred from senate membership by the lack of instant gratification.

“I don’t think a lot of students realize how important the senate side is,” she said. “It’s very business focused, and it can be hard to see results as quickly as with (the University Program Council), which plans events for a specific time.

“Some students on SGA may not see their ideas come to fruition before they graduate, but the work is still important.”

SGA can take longer to implement new ideas because it looks at the big picture, Jacques said.

“It takes individuals sometimes to plant seeds for things to get done,” she said. “They can feel like they’re not getting far, but they are.”

Brasher said SGA does not currently have the manpower to actively recruit, but McCann said SGA has still been trying.

“This past summer, I sent a letter to every RSO on campus and Greek organizations asking them to send someone (to senate) to represent them,” she said. “I got 10 people from the about 140 letters I sent out.”

McCann said SGA engages in many recruiting activities throughout the year.

“We’re constantly doing stuff to recruit,” she said. “We’ve been having a DJ party by our offices every year where we give out free food and (senate) applications.”

But, with senate application season in full swing, Brasher said things might be looking up.

“We have eight applications already submitted and approved and seven that are still pending,” she said. “Applications don’t close until (March 21).”

And Jacques said the applications are coming from new places on campus.

“Students who weren’t necessarily involved before are getting involved now,” she said.

McCann said she would really like to see students get more involved on campus.

“There seems to be so little involvement on all ends of the spectrum,” she said. “The sad part is that it’s the same people involved in everything. We have a say in so much. I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to be involved.