President prepares for Fall semester
He came into the position with no experience. He has never served on a university committee, served as senator or even went through the Student Government Association’s internship program.
After a faltering first election’ and a runoff’ where he received 54.4 percent of student votes, Kenneth Fomunung became SGA president. Despite long hours and a plethora of work that come with the title, he relishes in the demands of the job.
Fomunung said his agenda has changed from the one he had before he was elected, and knows it will constantly evolve to include students’ needs.
‘Coming in, you think you only face those issues you think are traditional SGA issues – parking and security – but there is a whole world of issues that you have to deal with,’ Fomunung said. ‘(But) the priorities on my agenda stem from the priorities of the student body.’
Fomunung said parking, transportation, tuition and security are all issues he will constantly confront, but one of his personal priorities is to change the culture within SGA.
‘(I am) trying to get back to basics – making SGA not an exclusive organization, but a representative one,’ he said. ‘And where we are motivated by the duties to the students.’
To achieve this, Fomunung said it is important for SGA to stay away from recycling officers, such as when the previous administration’s vice president becomes president. Fomunung believes this will make SGA more of a truly representative organization.
He also feels it is important to educate the students on what SGA does and who they are, making the organization more visible.
Fomung said this might require simple actionss, such as moving SGA meetings to the Cougar Den from the University Center Underground, holding town halls and having senators wear nametags around campus so students can approach them if they have a problem.
Fomunung said if students knew more about SGA, they would be more inclined to get involved, since natural incentive is already present. Fomunung said this incentive is making the college experience as enjoyable as possible.
Fomunung said students can get involved by attending SGA meetings or serving on University committees.
‘This is where (students) can affect change by voting and voicing their opinions,’ he said in regard to committees. ‘It is a position of influence.’
Fomunung’s agenda also includes improving the food served at the dinning halls at Moody Towers and the Quadrangle.
He knows that this is an issue that affects only students who use these dining halls. If students are paying the high cost of living at these residential areas, they are entitled to receive better quality food, Fomunung said.
He said that plans to renovate these dining areas are already in place, but part of his and SGA’s job is to ensure that the quality of food improves not only during the busy school week, but also on weekends.
Fomunung wants senators to eat at these places and ask administrators to dine in these areas as well.
Fomunung said he plans to ensure that administrators honor their commitment to give $4 million of the $9 million in revenue from this fall’s tuition increase back to students through scholarships and other aid.
‘Student representatives need to pay attention,’ he said. ‘We have to say ‘remember when you told us this?”
Transparency is a huge part of Fomunung’s agenda, particularly when it comes to student fees. He wants to see a detailed explanation of the fees posted somewhere on PeopleSoft that students can easily access.
Although he acknowledges that these explanations are on the UH Web site, he says students ‘have to play detective’ to find information.
Fomunung has received heat from a few on-campus organizations, such as Students Against Sweatshops, but said this does not bother him.
‘People will have their opinions, and it’s OK. They are entitled to them,’ Fomunung said.
Fomunung added that he takes criticism to heart only when it is genuine.
‘If I do something that is really out of here, like if I was spending the SGA money on getting a Blackberry or getting members of my cabinet Blackberries, then by all means crucify me,’ Fomunung said. ‘Impeach me if I really just lose sight of what I was elected to do, but at the same time, I ask that you bear with me. Things are not always going to go the way you want.’
Fomunung welcomes criticism because he said he enjoys being surrounded by people who are opinionated and can disagree if it progresses good causes.
He is also aware of the negative perceptions some students have of SGA and the power it has in the University. This is why Fomunung wants to educate students and get them involved. He wants them to see that they are doing more than playing Senate and boosting their r’eacute;sum’eacute;s.
‘I will not deny the appeal to self-interest on campaigning. One of the reasons was obviously the implication for (my) r’eacute;sum’eacute;. If I denied that, I would lose all credibility right away,’ he said. ‘I will tell you right now (the title of SGA president) will not get me to the UH Law Center. The title is a boost, but not my ticket to law school.’
Fomunung said SGA’s powers are dependent upon the students, expressing the need for increased involvement.
‘If our SGA is not representation, then we have no power. We have as much power as you (the students) give us,’ he said. ‘Show me an SGA that has decision making over (the administration).’