Student Government speaker presents hopes, goals for upcoming year


Benjamin Solder

What types of legislation does the Student Government Assembly pass?

Historically, we’ve passed pieces to convey student opinions, pieces that are more publicity-focused for ongoing SG initiatives, and pieces that try and lobby legislators one way or the other for student-focused issues. 

So in the past assembly, there were one or two DACA pieces, to say that Student Government supports undocumented students here on campus — one was a little more broad, in reaction to a particular bill, and the other was playing off a particular SG initiative being run by Alejandrina and Micky. We also had a lot of debate after YCT’s A-frame was vandalized by the Revolutionary Student Front, and had a reaction piece saying that we need to both promote free speech and organizations’ property rights here on campus.

How does the SG Assembly work with the Student Body President and Vice President?

We’re currently in the works of establishing a working relationship to figure out who wants to cover what, and who’s going to tackle what issues. Historically, there have been both positive and less positive working relationships, so it does depend on the individual attitudes of those entities. Last year, between Alejandrina and Micky and the Assembly, there was a very positive working relationship — we had their Executive Board drafting legislation with members of the Assembly. There wasn’t a ton of overlap in terms of the initiatives we were working on, but there was lots of overlap in terms of general discussion about how we can improve campus.

What are some of the Assembly’s general goals for the upcoming year?

Our general goal is to keep the ball rolling in terms of what we’ve been doing with legislation, but maybe tone it down in terms of making sure our pieces are more powerful. We tend to pass a lot of things without a high degree of discrimination, so maybe we focus on passing pieces that are better-researched and better-written, pieces that are more convincing to administrators, pieces that have more student support through surveys or other data. I think we can definitely improve the quality of legislation. 

But I also want to take the focus of the Assembly off of just being a legislative entity. I think representatives run on specific platform points that have very little to do with specific pieces of legislation. They’re instead running on platform points that have to do with tangible change on campus, and I think we should be restructuring the Assembly to accommodate that. I was able to sit down with almost all of our representatives so far, and find our their top three or top five campaign platform points that they really want to work on, and there was a lot of overlap. 

So I was able to group people into smaller sets of two or three that we are describing as task forces, and then those were assigned to the standing Assembly committees so that the committees are no longer just legislation review entities. They are instead working groups that meet once a week and talk about meetings with administrators, funding and the next steps towards creating tangible change. So we’re talking about allowing absences for classes based on mental health, bringing diverse perspectives and a more diverse student population into liberal arts, expanding FIGs with funding and adequate training for mentors, providing open-source textbooks since students have to pay too much. There are a lot of really great ideas, and if we can actually structure what we’re doing, hopefully we can make some progress.

How does SG plan to reunite campus given the divisive events of the election?

Currently, Dean Lilly, the vice president of student affairs, is reviewing all of the changes we made to the Election Code last year, and she is going to come back with suggestions for some sort of code overhaul. Then we need to sit down as a collective with the Supreme Court, with the Executive Board, with representatives from the Assembly, and with the five other entities included in the Campus-Wide Election Code, in the same room, and actually discuss what changes we need to make to prevent the disruption to campus that we had in the previous election cycle. 

We’ve tried to come up with blanket policies to cover all social media, because it’s ever-changing, ever-growing, and we would be hard-pressed to adapt with each year to whatever new social media outlet there is. But obviously that’s not been effective, so we’re going to have to get creative. I think specifying that a like, or heart react, or upvote on whatever post does not qualify as speech on behalf of a campaign, and clarifying that for the ESB. Another great idea is that we need to write essentially a penal code, with each possible infraction a campaign could commit, and what the penalty would be. 

How do you plan make the SG Assembly more transparent to the student body?

The newsletter is an underused tool of communication — we have social media accounts that not many people like and follow, but we have access to campus-wide emails, that we send out maybe twice a semester? So a biweekly newsletter, that’s not just a boring and bland review of legislation, but is actually personalized and engaging to students, would be hopefully a better way for us to publicize what’s going on. 

I also personally bought a tripod, so we can record meetings without poor freshmen having to film by hand, and we’re starting to archive those all online so people can go back through as a data source — those should be open records. The fact that we didn’t have a student government website for four months last year still bothers me, but that’s not going to happen this year. I want to make sure that we as student government are holding ourselves accountable to a certain bar.

How can students get involved with SG to promote their own ideas and initiatives?

So we struggle with this a lot, and I’m not sure I have the perfect answer. But first of all, students need to see SG as a means to change on campus, and I’m not sure that’s what students think of SG. They think of a whole bunch of people in suits, who are full of hot air and want to hear their own voices and sit around and pretend to be important. So the first thing is changing the image — everybody knows they have a student government, but they need to think of us as a way to change campus, so that if they have an idea to make things better, their default reaction is to go to SG. 

Beyond that, I don’t think we’ve historically done a good job of publishing our applications to get involved, but this next week, our internal application is going to open up for all of our agency director positions, our deputy chief of staff positions, our policy director positions, and while these positions will be guided in terms of the campaign points that Colton and Mehraz ran on and won on, students who have good ideas are definitely encouraged to come forward, express those ideas, and incorporate them into whatever other work they would be doing. 

We also meet every Tuesday at 7 p.m., and at the start of the meeting during Open Forum, students can speak for two minutes about whatever they want — I know representatives really appreciate it, and we like having a means to connect to interested students on anything. And if people have questions, they can contact any of us or me directly, and I can put them in touch with whatever college or initiative they want to work on.

Solder is a neuroscience junior.