Poor membership retention, accountability and attendance created challenges in the Davis-Anderson administration, according to Student Government Association Vice President Kimani Anderson and Legislative Librarian Jackson Myers.
“There were times I felt as though we can’t achieve everything we need to achieve because everyone that needs to be here isn’t here,” Anderson said.
In total, two senators and four executives left their SGA positions over the course of the school year. SGA President Michael Davis refused to comment on the turnover of executive board members, some of whom left without going through an official resignation process as outlined in the SGA bylaws and constitution, though the reason for their departure hasn’t always been clear.
Despite the difficulty with membership, Anderson and Myers said the administration made great progress within the Association of Student Governments, successfully hosting an ASG meeting in March while also enriching relationships with other UNC schools and improving relationships with students and faculty.
“I think this has been one of the closest administrations when it comes to fostering connections with the Association of Student Governments and people that may not have been as in tune with student government in years past,” Myers said. “And now we’re seeing these people wanting to make a presence and make an impact in the coming administration and step up and be a senator, and I think that’s really impressive.”
The Davis-Anderson administration connected with groups such as student athletes and those involved with Greek life, aided by members representing both groups, Myers said.
“Kimani was an athlete at one point he has that relationship with them, and Michael’s friends with the athletes as well, so that certainly helped foster that relationship and get them more informed and more involved with what is happening with SGA and the Association of Student Governments, so much so that we now have representatives in this coming Green-Smith administration,” Myers said.
Anderson said his connections with the athletics department were beneficial in lining up conversations about student-athlete specific events. Despite the fact that nothing came from these talks, Anderson said he feels hopeful this connection will benefit the next administration.
“We were able to meet with coaches we had some planning in the works to do events with student athletes,” Anderson said. “They might not necessarily have come to fruition, they didn’t necessarily happen, but we began to have those conversations which is important for the next administration because there’s only so much you can do in a year.”
Other concrete accomplishments of the administration include co-hosting party at the polls, assisting with Greenfest, attending and making recommendations at the university’s fees committee, helping to facilitate a supply drive for victims of Hurricane Florence and outreach programs for the community, campus and alumni.
“We have done many wonderful things,” Davis said via email. “Things such as hosting conversations with the president, the statewide food and hunger event, hosting meetings with the club and org presidents to know how SGA can help them.”
Focusing on the legislative branch, the only bills passed were those establishing positions for executives and senators. According to Anderson, lots of work gets done more privately that might not always be noticed.
“I don’t necessarily look at ‘Did the administration as a whole accomplish things,’” said Robert Straub, SGA faculty advisor. “Part of it is that student government is about learning and growth and I think they did some of that. Some of them did a lot of it–positive growth.”
According to Junior Sen. Zane Carroll, more was accomplished within the executive branch and the ASG than in the senate, though the administration still made great strides.
“I think there has been a thing going around that people are saying that the last administration didn’t do anything, which just simply isn’t true. But I do think communicating what was done didn’t happen. I think people did their own little thing and didn’t tell anyone else,” Carroll said, going on to discuss her efforts as member of the senate: “I did step up when the exec of sustainability left and I helped plan Camp Out on the Quad and Greenfest. And I planned my off-campus work day for my club, it was awesome, with the non-profit I’m on the executive board of.”
Increasing SGA transparency existed on the platforms of all three SGA presidential and vice presidential campaigns. According to Article I, section 5, subsection 2 of the SGA bylaws, “The Vice President or their designee shall be responsible for posting a copy of the written minutes in the Student Government Association within twenty four hours after approval.” All minutes and legislation are recorded on Google Documents, though not shared with the student body or published on the SGA website.
Myers admitted that the minutes are not very accessible to the public, though he and Anderson said they would be given to anyone who requested them. Davis would not comment on the publication of the minutes. Anderson said he found the wording in the bylaws too vague on how the minutes should be published.
“The language there, ‘In the student government association,’ what does that mean? In the Student Government Association office? On the website? In an SGA email? What exactly does that mean? I think we need to be less ambiguous in the bylaws,” Anderson said.
Myers said the fact that the minutes haven’t been published publicly serves as an incentive for members of the student body to attend SGA meetings. Anderson additionally disagreed that SGA has a transparency problem since the meetings are open to all.
“I don’t think that there’s an issue with SGA being transparent necessarily because the meetings are public students can attend them,” Anderson said. “We do have the minutes available and we just fell short in publishing those minutes to the public.”
Another mandate outlined in Article I, section 3, subsection 3 of the SGA bylaws states that each senator is required to submit five student complaints through the form of contact reports. According to Myers, a senior, this particular rule hasn’t been followed since his freshman year. Despite this, Myers and Anderson said that complaints and comments are processed informally and are always accepted, in the SGA suggestion box and otherwise.
Anderson said the Davis-Anderson administration set a good example of what do and what not to do for the upcoming administration.
According to Carroll and Junior Sen. Sean Nadasky, the Davis Anderson administration did not fully abide by the SGA constitution and bylaws.
“I think there was a lot of new people and no one was holding them accountable,” Carroll said.
Carroll said she felt very optimistic the upcoming Green-Smith administration would be more organized and proactive given that during the Davis-Anderson the senate did not have a full 18 members and the senate committees were not formed until the end of the fall semester, calling it scattered.
“This next administration looks like we’re going to be more committed to involvement,” Nadasky said.