Maintaining active members has become a pressing issue for the current administration of the Student Government Association, with half of the Senate and other key positions being empty throughout the school year.
While the 60th administration has admitted around 20 new senators, only half of them remain active in SGA. This increase in vacancies has caused issues with the organization’s day-to-day activities and has left some colleges with no representation at all.
“SGA is a massive time commitment, and when senators drop out it’s up to like five people to do the work,” former SGA senator and current SFAC committee member Spiro Hoxha said. “If you shirk on your duties, then many important programs, such as the Dart Center, get no attention.”
Vacancies in SGA are not only limited to the Senate. Various executive positions are currently vacant as well, including the director of outreach and director of external affairs.
In their latest special session, the Senate barely met the minimum number of senators required to conduct the meeting, with only seven senators physically present.
Hoxha believes the problem is less to do with generating interest among new students, and more to do with keeping the often-unpaid, overworked students interested in SGA.
“It’s more of an issue of encouraging senators to remain active than filling their seats,” said Sen. Cody Szell. “The administration has had a bit of a revolving door.”
According to some SGA senators, the organization can often be intimidating to newcomers. In addition to bi-weekly Senate meetings, senators are also expected to participate in various committees and draft legislation — all while staying ahead of their school work.
“People underestimate the workload for sure,” said speaker of the Senate Sophia Wilson. “The obvious challenge is that people keep dropping, so the work is always hard to finish.”
Another possible explanation for the turnover within the 60th administration is what Hoxha describes as the “free-loader problem.” Essentially, students will be initially excited to join and will participate in the first few meetings but have a tendency to fall off as the school year picks up. Hoxha believes this issue is endemic to SGA’s structure.
“Unless the SGA bureaucracy gets fixed, things get simplified and the system gets revamped, the free rider problem will always be there,” Hoxha said.
Another issue that stems from these vacancies is lack of representation for certain colleges. SGA categorizes senators by college with the number of open positions depending on the number of students enrolled in that college. This has created an issue where certain schools, like the College of Arts, the Law Center and several others, are entirely without representation within SGA. While vacancies have impacted some schools more than others, the vast majority of schools have vacancies within the Senate.
“I can’t stress enough how important SGA is in terms of giving people a voice. Colleges not having senators absolutely affects that representation,” Hoxha said.
For some of these colleges, there weren’t any students willing to apply to become a senator and represent the college.
“The only colleges who had no seats were ones whose college we didn’t receive any applicants to be senator,” Wilson said. “When this happens, there isn’t a senator in that school to bring issues to SGA that are specific to the college.”