SGA discusses programs to increase student participation

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SGA discusses programs to increase student participation

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By Jasmine Heyward, news correspondent

Northeastern’s Student Government Association (SGA) members discussed last year’s achievements at a meeting last week, including progress on the Rethink SGA initiative and other programs to increase communication between student groups and administration.

SGA’s senate executive board reviewed the fall semester and proposed spring initiatives during their first meeting on Jan. 23 in the Curry Student Center Senate Chambers.

“None of the work that we’ve gotten done is done independently,” SGA President Elliot Horen said. “It is the result of these people who are really fiercely committed.”

Executive Vice President Suchira Sharma, a junior management and finance double major, reviewed changes to senate engagement, including the Rethink SGA program. The program, which began last semester, has included a series of town halls where students can ask about SGA’s role and legislative processes.

Rethink SGA was the result of a proposal made last year by Students Against Institutional Discrimination (SAID), a student organization dedicated to addressing and reducing systemic discrimination at Northeastern. The proposal sought to open the legislative process to students.

“SAID approached SGA last year with a referendum question that would open up the entire process up to the student body,” Sharma said.

While the referendum wasn’t accepted by SGA due to its wording, Sharma said she thought the proposal was strong and followed up with SAID the following year.

“When I became [executive vice president], I approached both the leaders of this proposal in May to discuss a timeline and implementation, which is what you see implemented today,” she said.

The Rethink SGA program follows a major rebranding effort by SGA during the fall 2016 semester. Horen said the members wanted to make the organization into more of a student group than an authoritative body.

“We’ve changed our focus to advocacy for students rather than building relationships,” said Horen, a junior information science and business administration combined major.

The meeting also highlighted the upcoming referenda selection process. Any student can submit an idea for a referendum. Referenda will be accepted until Feb. 5, approved through February and voted on by the student body in mid-March. Two years ago, referenda led to the creation of the ViSION Resource Center, which provides resources and education related to interpersonal violence on campus, and gender neutral bathrooms.

“We are willing to work with every single student on an individual basis,” Sharma said.

She said many of SGA’s most successful initiatives have been ideas brought by students, some of whom weren’t senators or cabinet members.

The vice presidents of each of SGA’s five committees also recapped their accomplishments from the previous semester at the meeting.

The student affairs committee, under Vice President Alex Bender, began a club sports advisory board that met for the first time last Thursday. He said the university’s 43 club sports teams often have difficulties renting spaces and securing reimbursements, and there was not previously a system in place for them to advocate for greater access to resources.

“We thought it’d be a good idea to make this board, this place where they could be in the same room as the administration,” said Bender, a sophomore industrial engineering major.

The committee also started Husky to Husky, a mental health peer education program, in the fall. There are currently more than 20 students in the program who are trained to mentor their peers on accessing mental health resources, and the program will continue to be present at outreach events.

Victoria Mier, a freshman history major and member of the student services committee, is working on another mental health initiative. She said Northeastern services should address specific stressors that other universities don’t have.

“There’s talk about working toward some sort of counseling program specifically about co-op stress,” she said.

The student services committee is also working on removing trays from the dining halls—a proven way to reduce food waste—and starting a safety advisory board to increase communication between students and the Northeastern University Police Department.

Members of the finance board, which allocates funding to Northeastern student organizations, are looking to be more accessible to student groups.

“Student organizations really rely on the finance board to be good at communicating with them,” financial officer Draken DuBose said.

DuBose will be holding office hours this semester to discuss funding opportunities with student groups outside of formal presentations.

SGA is looking forward to a productive semester, and hopes to continue toward expanding their current programs and implementing new ones.

File photo courtesy Elliot Horen