• Lillie Burke

SGA introduces Intent of Reform Resolution, discusses potential changes to congressional representat

Belmont Student Government Association President Jonathan Rankin introduced the Intent of Reform Resolution which would change the way congress represents students by designating seats in congress proportionate to the size of different Belmont colleges.

“I look at universities across the country that have successful student governments, and they’re set up this way. And I don’t think that our student body is less motivated or less professional than these other student bodies,” said Rankin.

This resolution comes with upcoming congress SGA elections, potentially making the current congress the last to represent the entire campus before legislation could cause students to elect SGA members of the basis of them representing each one of Belmont’s seven colleges.

“You are driven because you are representing a specific area of campus that you campaigned for, and they have their own specific issues and you feel obligated to represent those issues,” Rankin said.

In this proposed resolution, each college would receive one guaranteed seat, and then the rest of the seats would be distributed according to the size of the college. For example, the Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business would have one guaranteed seat and five additional seats due to its large size.

Also, five seats would be set aside for new students, including freshman and transfer students, and then five at-large seats for students with special causes or organizations to represent.

Although congress still must determine the details of the resolution, interdisciplinary students like double majors and honors students would most likely pick which college they wanted to represent that most aligned with their studies, said Rankin.

This reform would cut the size of Congress from 40 members to 31.

“If I have work to do for SGA and I don’t do it, the way we currently have it set up I’m letting down the people in this room who expect me to do that work,” Rankin said. “But the students who elected me don’t really know what I’m doing, don’t expect much of me. I don’t really represent them; I represent the whole student body.”

Rankin thinks redefining the role of congress members and decreasing it to a more efficient size would hold members more accountable to the student population, he said.

“So, I don’t feel like I’m letting down the student body when I slack off. Tonight we almost didn’t have forum. So, I think there’s a level of apathy that comes from the way that we define what a congressman does,” Rankin said.

Some congress members expressed doubts concerning the motivation of upperclassmen to join SGA.

“Considering that freshman normally are more interested in getting involved, then there should be some kind of incentive to run,” said congresswoman Olivia Jones.

But congressman Daniel Zydel dismissed those concerns by vouching for the fact if upperclassmen felt they could represent more specific needs that they have an expertise in, SGA would see more involvement.

“A lot of students, as they become upperclassmen, become less engaged with the student population,” said Zydel. “However, if you do this, you are vying them to their college or academic environment. So, people that are familiar with the issues say in the College of Sciences and Mathematics will now be willing to operate in the capacity of SGA because now they know what the college needs.”

This proportional representation would allow congress members to feel a more direct connection and accountability to their peers and classmates in their colleges.

Assistant director of Student Engagement and Leadership Development and SGA adviser Jessica Dykes said, although she believes in empowering SGA members to make a decision instead of top-down advising, from her experience at schools like the University of Texas and Trevecca, Belmont’s SGA system is unlike any other she has advised.

“Do I think that the current state of student government is the best that it can be at Belmont? For now and moving forward as we are actively growing and gaining esteem in the area, my personal opinion would be that there is a lot of room to grow,” she said.

The overall hope of the reform is to increase student involvement and to allow students to see specific issues addressed in areas that benefit them.

Congress passed the resolution, and President Rankin created an ad hoc committee which will write the legislation, that if passed, will officially change SGA’s electoral system.

To see the potential plan in its entirety, view it at the link here.

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