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SGA starts year with elections, commitment to transparency

Student Government Association looks to the new year to elect a congress under the leadership of President Jonathan Rankin, Vice President Jade Cooper and its new adviser Jessica Dykes.

During the 2015 spring semester, SGA’s activities were suspended, and the group could not hold elections, and the only decided members of SGA were in the executive branch.

Unlike past years, due to their activities being suspended, no members of Congress have been elected.

In light of SGA’s conclusion last year, Cooper spoke on a clear mission to make this year more student-focused.

“Transparency is huge. We are so sick of the politics of past administrations,” Cooper said. “We just really want to be open and have open lines of communication with the students and administration.”

Rankin echoed the need to center SGA around student needs in order to gain trust of both upperclassmen who witnessed last year’s organization and incoming students looking for resources and support.

“The only way to rebuild trust is through action, and I would hope that it’s easy to regain trust because we have new leadership and congress will have a huge turnover,” Rankin said. “I would ask the students to give us a chance because we are a different organization than last year.”

To gain trust, SGA’s goals include the implementation of a more streamlined grant petition process with fewer steps, a cooperative relationship with senior leadership and a website to inform the student body.

The website will release a biweekly newsletter as a way to directly interact with students and make them aware of SGA’s events and legislation, Cooper said.

“Transparency isn’t achieved passively,” said Rankin in a statement released to the Vision. “ is an indicator of how this year will look for SGA: a focus on communication and service to the student body.”

Students will also have the ability to access grant petitions, congress contact information, election voting and meeting minutes from the site, Rankin said.

“Last year, there was a lot that SGA did that the student body didn’t necessarily see, and what they saw was mistakes made by a members,” he said. “I think the newsletter and the website will play a big role in showing what’s going on in SGA, because there is a lot to be celebrated about what we do.”

Along with the new initiatives SGA is promoting this year, the organization will continue discussions on increasing the credit hour cap and will collaborate with Campus Security on student safety issues.

SGA hopes to accomplish even more with legislation with the support of its new adviser Jessica Dykes who will bring a positive tone by helping advocate for congress with Belmont’s leadership, Rankin said.

Dykes– who has six years of experience working in Student Affairs– was hired as the Assistant Director of Student Engagement and Leadership Development in August.

Before coming to Belmont, she advised SGAs at The University of Texas at Tyler and Trevecca Nazarene University.

“I absolutely love her,” Cooper said. “She is the greatest. She brings a much-needed personality to the SGA. She is going to help be a resource to bring us back on the right track.”

With the new adviser, initiatives and Congress, Rankin said he hopes SGA will gain a new energy and see 1,000 students turnout for voting.

This year, campaigning opened 8 a.m. on Sept. 4 and voting for the 46 candidates elections will run from Wednesday to Friday.

Students will be able to begin voting in the Beaman from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday or on SGA’s website for the remainder of the voting period. SGA’s first meeting is Monday.

Director of Policy Review McLean Pillon, Secretary Erica Rivero, Treasurer Chris Dickerson and Director of Campus Outreach and Events Christina Ashworth will be inaugurate with the rest of congress on Sept. 21 after elections close on Friday.

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