Representatives seek to realign SGA and student body

by Hanna Lesky – Staff Writer – [email protected]

UNC Asheville students recently elected representatives for the 45th session of Student Government Association, which some students view as an opportunity to fix the organization’s existing flaws.
“This is not a state government, federal government or even a large university, and the amount of bureaucracy that SGA inflicts upon itself is a waste of those students’ time and every student’s time,” said elections commissioner Pete McKelvey.
The SGA Senate recently censured its president because he did not tell McKelvey when inauguration would be held, causing a rushed election.
According to SGA president-elect Leigh Whittaker, the censure was too great a punishment for what the president did.
“We all make mistakes.  Ben’s mistake happened to impact a lot of people and made elections seem rushed. We have learned from this year and the previous and will use this knowledge to provide for a better and more effective election,” Whittaker said.
The SGA constitution outlines a specific timeline required for every step of elections, from applying for candidacy to voting.
The constitution and bylaws include procedures and requirements the association faces on a regular basis.
“The measures in the constitution that make it so complicated are meant to create a fairness within the group, but instead serve only those students who have enough free time to pore over the documents,” McKelvey said.
According to McKelvey, some members memorize SGA rules and use them as a power play rather than as a means to help people.
“I would like to see a student government that lends a voice to the most active students in our university, those who share commitments with student orgs., athletic teams or clubs and have multiple obligations. I don’t really know what the solution to this is, but it isn’t more constitutional reforms like some senators have been pushing for in recent months. It’s a little more common sense and a little less ego,” McKelvey said.
The senate passed a bill at its last meeting encouraging senators to get student feedback through newly revised student contact report forms.
“In general I think it is safe to say that no institution is perfect and that we always need to be improving ourselves,” said current SGA president Benjamin Judge.
Judge said there are things he and others could have done better, but that situation exists in every organization.
“SGA is pretty disorganized, and that affects the transparency with students. Transparency is key in SGA because we allocate funds and acquire a stipend that comes from student fees. We also are the student voice to administration, especially during tuition and fee time when we vote on whether we agree with certain increases,” Whittaker said.
Transparency is also part of a broader issue of student involvement, Whittaker said.
“Just from personal experience, I have found it hard to make students care about SGA, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s impossible. Hopefully in the upcoming years we can invite more student org. involvement along with other sects of our student body that don’t seem to participate in student government,” Whittaker said.
There are already strategies to increase student involvement in the future, Whittaker said.
“This upcoming administration, we plan for more tabling and interactive events to get students informed and hyped about what goes on in SGA.  We will be amping up our social networking presence as well,” Whittaker said.
Whittaker also has plans to make SGA more professional in order to make it more effective to serve the student population.
“Specifically organizational-wise, I plan to have my executive cabinet submit their weekly reports for the website in a standardized template and keep track of a binder that holds their work for the administrative year,” Whittaker said.
Whittaker also has plans with the recently passed bill.
“I plan to make SGA more present on campus, specifically with more student contact report forms around campus along with blue submission boxes. With more student feedback, I hope that SGA will be more reactive with projects and initiatives,” Whittaker said.