SGA Recaps Active Year

By Emily Singer

The current Student Government Association (SGA) administration has been faced with a great deal of scrutiny this year, due in part to the especially high voter turnout last year, which elected Rachel Liddell ’15 as SGA President with over 52 percent of the votes. Amid frustration with the apparent lack of tangible change enacted by the SGA, however, the Senate has been especially active in passing legislation in recent weeks.

Much of the SGA’s business during the fall semester was centered on crisis management following the 9/11 Memorial vandalism and the Chance the Rapper controversy.

Liddell said that she was overeager at the start of the year and sought to effect broad, sweeping changes. She soon realized that such a plan proved to be more talk than action and that as President for just one year, she didn’t “have the longevity to pursue those things to their finality.”

After Liddell realized the type of change and legislation she would be capable of enacting, she says that she was “able to focus [her] efforts in a more concentrated way.”

“You can see that in the arc of what I was able to do this year. The first semester I spent a lot of time talking to the [Educational Affairs Committee] about internships for credit … and that was good, not an unproductive conversation, but I realized that it wasn’t under my direct control,” Liddell said.

“I did a lot of work towards it, and I’m glad that I did, but at a certain point I realized that I had done what I could do and the faculty needed to make a decision for themselves. I then started looking into things like having a café in BiHall and ramping MiddCourses up and talking about how we as SGA members can actually be engaged in issues on campus.”

Such issues included Honor Code reform, AAL reform and, at the start of the year, Real Food. With regard to the latter, the SGA conducted an all-student survey in the fall that sought to gauge student interest in the Real Food movement. The survey, however, included a question that angered a number of students. Liddell noted that students were right to be angry and that she made a mistake. The survey led Liddell to “burn a lot of political capital” that she was unable to bounce back from. The SGA’s inquiries into Real Food further faded as Liddell and her cabinet recognized that “pursuing initiatives took a disproportionate amount of time in relation to the students it represented.”

While the SGA did not pass any legislature pertaining to Real Food, Liddell did help EatReal to pass a bill related to Real Food through the SGA senate last month.

“We have had a lot of independent student groups come to the SGA this year and ask to write legislation,” Liddell said, adding that the SGA has the ability and connections to put students in contact with the appropriate administrators to work to create change.

In spite of the recent one-sided election, the SGA has, in fact, been particularly active in passing legislation.

“AAL reform has been in and out of legislation for four years,” said SGA Senator Michael Brady ’17.5. “So the fact that we can pass this bill means that we’ve made progress. I think there is some significant legislation that has been passed and I find it kind of ironic that during this election, people were saying that SGA doesn’t do anything.”

The SGA believes that much of the discontent they are faced with is rooted in a misunderstanding on behalf of the student body.

“I don’t even necessarily think that it’s a lack of our ability to do something as it is, it’s a perception thing. Students don’t understand what we do or how we do it and don’t care to learn more, and they feel like it’s the SGA’s responsibility to help them [understand it in a more] digestible manner,” said SGA Chief of Staff Jake Nonweiler ’14.

On the most basic level, Liddell believes that the SGA can help students connect with administrators.

“Administrators are very helpful,” she said. “They are kind, and they care about what students think, and they want to help us. The administration, as a whole, is difficult to navigate… it took me about a year to learn how to do it, and now I’m going to finish.”

“I think that also pertains to the issue of ‘what does the SGA do for students?’ The SGA knows how to navigate the administration, and many students have the agency to walk up to Old Chapel and make change … but SGA can be a great conduit for that kind of change as well because we have a lot of practice… We can be an amplifier. But if people don’t know that, or people don’t want that, it doesn’t work.”