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Sunday, January 16, 2022

Campus

SGA says input oversight committees slacking


President Shane Smith, Vice President Rohini Sethi and Chief of Staff Andrew Bahlmann led the majority of the meeting. |Leen Basharat/The Cougar

SGA Vice President Rohini Sethi says she will take action against committee inactivity. | Leen Basharat/The Cougar

UH has a problem with some of its committees devoted to advice and oversight.

The University has a number of committees designed to offer feedback to various departments, offices or institutions. Many of them comprise a combination of faculty and staff from the related department, with the SGA president or vice president nominating students to the committees.

While many committees are regularly active, some have had problems with attendance or have a history of meeting irregularly.

“It would be nice if we actually met more, if we had more regular meetings,” said Valentin Perez, recent re-appointee to the Bookstore Advisory Committee. “They have been kind of inactive over the last few years compared to back in the day.”

The Bookstore Advisory Committee only met once during the 2016 spring semester, despite its bylaws stating that it is to meet once a month. There are no current plans for the Bookstore Advisory Committee to meet, as far as Perez is aware.

Little activity, participation

The inaction is costing students money by declining to inform them of assistance they can receive with purchasing their books. There aren’t a lot of students who know about the short-term book loans available to them or price matching with Amazon, Perez said.

Another committee with activity issues is the Counseling and Psychological Services Advisory Committee. While they met for two of their three scheduled meetings during Spring, the committee has a lack of student participation.

“In practice, our most consistent committee members have been faculty members,” said Dr. Norma Ngo, director of Counseling and Psychological Services and chair of its advisory committee.

The SGA has appointed a task force aimed at reviewing CAPS’ current status and offering recommendations for improvement. Some on the task force agreed with Ngo that communication is the solution.

“Committees often don’t hear about new student appointments unless the students contact the committees,” said Phillip Pinell, a liberal studies sophomore and CAPS Task Force member. “However, students often don’t know who to contact after being appointed to committees.”

The low attendance has meant that students don’t have the opportunity to use available tools to improve services like CAPS, which they rely on.

“What might be helpful is to receive new appointments early to improve the process of scheduling meetings,” Ngo said. “The sooner committee members can respond with availability will allow us to schedule meetings early and more often.”

Some committees, like the Bookstore Advisory Committee or the Libraries Advisory Committee, mainly provide advice or support. Others directly influence aspects of policy or hire for specific positions.

For example, the Center for Student Media Advisory Committee selects the editor-in-chief of The Cougar, the station director of Coog Radio and the president of Coog TV.

Solutions in place

Uneven activity might not be isolated to the CAPS Advisory Committee and the Bookstore Advisory Committee. So far, students from two other committees said that they have not been contacted by their committee chair for a meeting, said SGA Vice President Rohini Sethi.

If inactive committee chairs cannot be persuaded to take initiative, Sethi plans to rely on students to compensate. Sethi declined to comment on which committees students had complained about.

“In the past, there has been a lot of, ‘Once you are appointed, that’s it, SGA has no more interaction,’” Sethi said.

Sethi plans to contact each department and find out if the committee is still in place.

“If it is, I will figure out who is chairing it and make sure they are doing their job,” Sethi said. “If not, then I plan to urge the students who are passionate about it to create the committee themselves, to contact everyone on the committee and get them in the room themselves.”

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