Incoming SGA speakers want more transparency and accountability for senators

By Stuart Foster

Amanda Creegan/Daily Collegian
(Amanda Creegan/Daily Collegian)

Leaders of the Student Government Association’s legislative branch said making the actions of the undergraduate senate more transparent to the student body is a major goal for the next semester.

While the senate will still work on their traditional responsibilities, such as allocating the budgets of Registered Student Organizations, Speaker Lauren Coakley emphasized that senators need to become more involved with the communities they represent.

“I really want senators to not just be a mere presence in the senate,” said Coakley, a junior who is majoring in political science and resource economics. “I’ve considered putting it in the bylaws that we need to be more involved.”

Coakley outlined a plan that would use iClickers to record how senators vote on specific resolutions and post the results online, where students could see how their representatives voted on certain issues. Historically, the SGA has not taken a record of the number of votes on specific resolutions.

Julie Brunelle, associate speaker of the senate, mentioned how important it is for senators to take more consultation from students, especially in the form of the Back to the People events.

SGA senators have two Back to the People events each semester, where they reach out to their constituents for responses. Brunelle said the senate has already scheduled this semester’s.

Coakley mentioned new areas of focus senators would be trained on this year as well, such as receiving direct action training from the Center for Education Policy and Advocacy and receiving more education about RSO budgets.

Coakley added that she would work more with CEPA this year than senate speakers have in the past. While the SGA and CEPA are different organizations, Coakley said they should collaborate on issues whenever they can. Brunelle added that a strong relationship with CEPA should help the SGA approach issues of diversity and inclusion.

Brunelle also expressed support for the SGA’s proposed document on student consultation, which was read to students at an open forum on Monday.

“I think it’s really important to hold the administration accountable for getting student opinions on policies and fees that will eventually affect us,” she said.

Coakley said the reaction from students to the announcement of an Information Technologies fee over the summer was responsible for the SGA’s decision to focus on representing student opinions this semester.

“In the future, if something like this comes up again we can take a more formal stance,” she said.

Coakley and Brunelle also mentioned the SGA’s Women Leadership Conference, which will be held on November 15. Coakley said she wants to have at least 200 female members in attendance.

The mentor program introduced to the senate last year was also cited by Brunelle as an important feature to the body, as she said it was effective for bringing new members into the senate and preparing them for leadership positions. Brunelle said she wanted to see the program strengthened to prepare senators for a high turnover in leadership position which will occur when many of the current seniors in leadership positions graduate.

Coakley mentioned she would focus on making sure senators are provided with more assistance throughout the semester.

“I think I’m going to try and focus on really being the leader of the senate instead of my own projects,” she said. “I think it’s time for the speaker to really take a role in facilitating and engaging with the fifty Senators.”

Coakley also mentioned that the search for a new chair of the social justice and empowerment committee is currently ongoing.

The first Senate meeting of the semester will be Monday.

Stuart Foster can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twiter @Stuart_C_Foster