By Juan Garcia
The decision to postpone Student Government Association elections until fall term was reached last week by Laura Pantano, SGA adviser and assistant vice president of student engagement and success, under the consultation of SGA members and Mary Ann Grams, vice president for student affairs.
“There was a shared feeling that there wasn’t enough publicity and awareness about the campaign,” Pantano said. “We thought that it would be better to postpone until the fall. This will allow new students who are transferring in to seek opportunities for leadership positions within SGA.”
SGA members who are not graduating in May will hold positions until fall elections. SGA President Zaira Rodriguez plans to graduate in May which leaves her role unfilled during the fall election procedures.
SGA also canceled Jagiantic because of little member involvement. The community service event has been held successfully for three years.
Minimal publicity, few applicants, meeting time conflicts and schedule conflicts among members were all cited by SGA and administration as reasons for postponing and canceling events.
Pantano said elections were postponed because of a lack of student interest. She said of the three students who applied, two withdrew their applications. Reasons for withdrawal were not provided.
Another cause for the low application turnout may have resulted from missing applications. Pantano said SGA created between 30 to 50 applications that were dispersed on tables at Main Campus Building, including those in the cafeteria. Pantano and SGA officers are speculating on the whereabouts of applications based on the fact there were only three completed.
“We have a contracted custodial staff that comes in the evenings to clean the building,” Pantano said. “It’s my assumption that they may have accidentally picked them up and thrown them away.”
Application entries opened at 8 a.m. March 5 and closed at 5 p.m. March 9. Campaigning was to start after Spring Break on March 19, but because students had issues finding applications, the application deadline was pushed back until March 26, the day voting was to begin. Campaigning and voting was to end March 30, but it was this week that elections were postponed altogether.
Currently, out of 19 positions only seven members actively meet because many members are unable to commit to the meeting times because of outside obligations.
SGA’s roster was requested April 2 from Rodriguez, who was unavailable by deadline.
Rodriguez has expressed concern over scheduling issues. She said SGA has failed to come to an agreement on a meeting time, which has played a large role in the association’s disorganization this semester.
The Mesquite reported Feb. 18 that SGA decided to change their meeting times from noon every other Friday to noon every other Saturday. Read related story.
“This semester it has been hard for students to commit,” Rodriguez said. “They have priorities outside of school, and because the campuses are separated, it also makes it harder for them to get together.”
Main Campus and Brooks City-Base Campus are located 10 miles apart.
At a Feb. 10 meeting, Rodriguez and two other senators examined results from a member survey, which showed that noon on Saturday was the best time for most senators. Still, the organization has been forced to re-examine this decision after new scheduling conflicts arose.
Rodriguez said that not having a set time for meetings has also made it hard on students wanting to join SGA. She said students are unwilling to take part because they are not sure if their schedules will accommodate SGA’s meeting times and events.
“[It’s] been a wake up call for SGA,” Rodriguez said. “We want to set a permanent time so that students interested in joining will be able to plan out their commitments ahead of time.”
Pantano also agreed that SGA’s lack of governance has stemmed from its inability to agree on a set time to conduct its meetings.
“According to their constitution they’re supposed to meet every other Friday at 4:30 p.m.,” Pantano said. “This has been part of the challenge of getting students aware of SGA because they’re meeting at a time when students are generally not on campus.”
Article V of SGA’s constitution says “All SGA members shall be present at all meetings, and all scheduled SGA events and any other meetings as designated by the president.”
Pantano said that in the past SGA has done a good job of keeping the student body informed about when and where they meet, but this semester the time issue has seriously hindered their progress.
“SGA set out certain goals for the academic year that they wanted to accomplish,” Pantano said. “But they have also had to be realistic. There were a few things they decided not to pursue because they didn’t have the manpower.”
Both Rodriguez and Pantano agreed that the underlying issue for this semester’s disorganization within SGA had to do with its members being unable to accommodate their schedules with the organization’s.
“They are students first,” Pantano said. “And as students first academics are priority. Obligations beyond the organization sometimes take over, and I really feel that this is what has defined SGA this semester.”