On Oct. 24, the Student Government Association (SGA) held a round-table event, inviting campus leaders to join in a conversation intended to point out problems in the community and identify possible solutions.
SGA sent an email out to student leaders at the College acknowledging the frustration and pain they perceive in the campus community. The email explained that SGA exists to “hear and support student voices.”
While around 400 students were invited to the round-table event, there were no more than a few dozen people in the Alumni Center on Sunday night. Several SGA members shared their perspectives with The Colby Echo on their relationship with the student body.
One class senator expressed concerns that SGA might seem inaccessible to the student body.
“I think a lot of people are unsure of what SGA does,” Sarah Snyder `24, told The Colby Echo. “We do a lot. [When I was a first-year] I wasn’t really sure, if I go [to an SGA meeting], is it really going to make a difference?”
Others wondered if SGA was disconnected from the student body at large.
“A lot of times, there’s a lot of people of similar friend groups who are on SGA,” another class senator explained.
“We don’t get the whole student body representation by just asking our friends, so it would be nice to have a more inclusive survey sent out [to the student body].”
SGA Vice President Laura Powell `22 told The Colby Echo that it sometimes seems like the student body doesn’t fully understand the daily undertakings of SGA.
“I think students sometimes don’t think we’re trying,” she said. “I think we are a lot of times, and we receive that pushback a lot. That’s really frustrating, and [we are] trying to work on how we can improve that going forward, because we all need to work together or [at the] end of the day nothing’s going to get done.”
Powell explained that SGA is ramping up efforts to foster deeper connection between it and the student body.
“This meeting was a first step,” she said. “We invited over 300 people and obviously those numbers didn’t show up. Doing more things like this, talking with more students, and connecting is going to be a really great way to engage more. [I hope] we can actually start to hear what is going on instead of assuming what we think is going on.”
SGA President Lukas Alexander `22 added that their efforts are not just isolated to Sunday evening events in the Alumni Center.
“Last week I did a bunch of tabling in the Spa with the goal of increasing people’s knowledge and awareness of what SGA does, what we’re actively doing and working on, and who’s on it,” he said.
“I think those three pieces of information can really help drive a conversation about, ‘okay, what could I go to SGA for, or who should I reach out to when I have ‘x’ problem?’ We’re [taking] a multifaceted approach to increase outreach, increase transparency, and better represent all students.”
Recently, SGA has been dealing with complaints about laundry on campus. Washing machines and dryers have been out of order in the Alfond Apartments, Roberts Row, and other dorms. SGA candidates have run with laundry reform on their platforms for years but have had little success in ameliorating student concerns.
Powell and Alexander explained that SGA advocates on behalf of the student body, but is sometimes unable to compel the administration to take desired action. Additionally, some SGA members noted that it can be difficult to overcome the bureaucratic inertia inherent in the organization.
Actions taken in SGA must be submitted as motions, which are then modified by other members of SGA. Each motion must be voted on in order to pass and for SGA to take action upon it. This process is used for tasks as small as sending out an email. However, despite the hoops they must jump through, SGA maintains an active presence on campus.
The organization recently helped organize day trips to Portland and Augusta to help provide travel opportunities for students who might not otherwise be able to leave campus. Additionally, SGA worked to establish this semester’s dining hall tupperware exchange system.
SGA members stressed that they serve the student body, but that it can be difficult to advocate for students from whom they don’t hear. They plan to continue their process of outreach in order to learn about students’ varied opinions. One anonymous class senator told The Colby Echo that she hopes meetings like this one are successful.
“A lot of us [senators] think it would be great to see more people come to [SGA] meetings,” she said, encouraging club leaders and students alike to voice their concerns to their SGA representatives.
~ Milo Lani-Caputo `23