SGA-student communication falls short

by Shafaq Patel / Beacon Correspondent • April 5, 2017

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SGA officials say their meetings have low attendance despite attempts to publicize them.
SGA officials say their meetings have low attendance despite attempts to publicize them.

Problems with communication and engagement are part of the reason that all the Student Government Association candidates on this year’s ballot are unopposed and most are current members, said Anne Makielski, class of 2018 president.

“[Since I’ve been here], it has been a few years of just people not engaging with SGA or maybe SGA not engaging as effectively as it could with students,” said Makielski, a candidate for executive president.

SGA held more events in previous years to connect with the students when it had a consistent public relations chair, Executive President Emily Solomon said. The Association used to hold events where students could talk about campus concerns and meet their representatives, the visual and media arts senior said.

“When I don’t have a PR chair, I am just one person,” Solomon said. “And everyone else in student government has other responsibilities. I don’t want to go back to the excuse that there is no one to do the work …. but you can’t take everything on yourself.”

There was a public relations chair her sophomore year and part of junior year, Solomon said, but the position was empty before Christopher Henderson-West took it on in early February. Henderson-West said that by the time the election application was advertised, he was still learning what the public relations chair does and how to do his job.

But Solomon said that even when there was a public relations chair, people still didn’t come to joint session meetings, which are open to all students. These meetings on Tuesday are when SGA members discuss the campus climate.

Sharon Duffy, interim senior associate dean of campus life and the association’s advisor, said that SGA members voice students’ opinions about issues on campus and act as the liaison between students and the administration.

“We all love Emerson, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities for improvement or for us to be thinking in ways we can be further advancing our community and experience,” Duffy said. “And SGA is definitely a mode that helps that to happen.”

Gabriela Kula, executive vice president, said student government at Emerson focuses on institutional change and represents the students’ needs to the faculty and administrators. The senior journalism major said that during joint session meetings, SGA drafted a letter supporting the sanctuary campus petition and invited faculty to talk about issues on campus, like faculty training, information technology issues, and cultural competency.

Solomon said that during her sophomore year, SGA advertised the joint session meetings a few times so students could voice their concerns, but not many showed up. Two years ago, when there was a large snow storm and make-up days were the dominant campus conversation, Solomon said, SGA advertised the joint session meeting where they brought in the registrar to talk about the issue.

“I had everyone invite as many people as they physically could and we had maybe one person that wasn’t already elected or appointed show up,” Solomon said. “We tried. Could consistency help? Yes. [But] I don’t know how much it would help.”

She said she understands that students are busy with classes and other organizations.

“I don’t fault anyone for not coming because I know Emersonians are busy,” Solomon said. “But I do want people to know where to go when they have a problem, and that is something we are always trying to work on.”

Solomon said the way SGA and the college communicates isn’t effective. Students get so many notifications through email and social media that the departmental or SGA information gets hidden, she said.

“I blame Facebook and its stupid algorithms in a lot of ways, because in the same way it shows you news that it knows you want to see … it is also going to hide things from you,” Solomon said.

She said that even people who do know of SGA’s existence and its social media still won’t be informed about everything because a lot of the information gets buried.

“I just want people to understand that this stuff—the lack of awareness—I do think about it constantly,” Solomon said. “And I think that’s one of the reassuring things that I can say: that I am not unaware of it and that people in SGA as a whole … are all aware.”