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Student government looks ahead with more outreach and communication

For Belmont’s Student Government Association, success this year rests on two key factors: Engagement and adaptability.

“Frankly, governance can be either boring or engaging. If you aren’t adaptable, you won’t be able to adequately address issues,” said Vice President Skyer Schmanski.

Schmanski and President Jeanette Morelan are heading into their first full year of leading SGA since their election in March. Their two main goals for the year are to create stronger channels of communication between SGA, administration and students and to be versatile in how they deal with campus issues.

One way Morelan plans to make SGA more inclusive this year is through what she calls Coffee and Conversations. This event, held every two weeks, will be a chance for congress members to interact with students and create what Morelan called “more organic conversations.”

Schmanski echoed this, saying personally he felt talking to students on a one-on-one level is the best way for SGA to gauge its constituency. To do this, another new initiative for SGA this year will be for representatives of student organizations to attend their organizations’ meetings.

“Congress members are assigned to represent the organizations, and this year the organizations will have the option of having their representative attend their meetings, instead of just having a representative for the sole purpose of promoting grant petitions,” Schmanski said.

On Sept. 24, SGA will also be holding a “State of the Student Body Address” followed by a town hall style meeting. Morelan said she hopes this event will raise awareness about SGA on campus and allow students to directly ask her and the other representatives questions.

In an emailed statement to the Vision, congressman Justin Smith said the issues addressed this year will be determined via the student feedback from the new outreach initiatives. He stressed that SGA is working hard to ensure that student issues are being looked at, not just issues important to congress members.

“This means fully understanding the important issues of all sorts of different students and making sure that we are accurately representing those issues,” Smith said.

Morelan said her plan is to use the strengthened channels of communication to break down SGA’s task on a day-to-day basis. That way SGA will be able to respond with more effectiveness and versatility to different issues that arise this year, she said.

“If people understand how and why to communicate, things will fall into place from there,” Morelan said.

As per this new policy of outreach, Morelan said SGA is stepping up its coordination with officials and groups on campus to address ongoing issues congress began looking at last year. She cited as examples how SGA now has a liaison with campus security and how SGA is working with the CORE Council as part of its ongoing goal of reforming visitation hours.

Making sure congress members can hold themselves accountable to both the students and to each other will be a huge part of SGA this year, Morelan said. In order to uphold the integrity of the student government this year, Morelan said the Policy Review Committee is revising parts of the constitution to create up-to-date standards for congress members to follow.

“We realize that everyone makes mistakes,” she said. “But representing the students in SGA is a privilege, not a right. Our biggest challenge is to be true to ourselves.”

Smith, who has been with SGA since his freshman year, said the overall attitude of congress going into this year is highly motivated.

“We have a lot of talented people returning to congress, and we have already given out quite a few applications to freshmen,” said Smith. “I believe that the combination of returning congress members, freshmen and cabinet are coming together to form an SGA that is ready to tackle the positives and negatives of the student experience here at Belmont.”

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