Student government faces old problems

Gerard Albert III/PantherNOW

By: Gerard Albert & Valentina Palm/PantherNOW Staff


The Student Government Association held Week of Welcome events to engage students during the first week of Spring semester but it also served as a way for SGA to move forward from a Fall semester spent mostly putting out fires and recovering from scandals.

Last semester saw vacancies of vice president, comptroller, head of internal affairs committee, chief of staff and other senators at MMC. At BBC vacancies in the senate and the removal of the Chief Justice were speed bumps but not barriers according to senate leadership John Habib.

SGC-MMC president Sabrina Leeloo Rosell is staying optimistic after filing the comptroller, speaker of the senate and speaker pro tempore positions Monday, Jan. 7.

“Teamwork makes the dream work,” she said about the new additions to her staff “now the direction we will be taking is just helping with our cabinet working in conjunction with them to help them continue with their initiatives.”

Rosell is working to change the culture and internal attitude of SGC-MMC, a problem that affects the retention rate of many officials. The work environment was criticized by many officials who left the organization last semester.

When asked about concrete examples of the effectiveness of the student government Rosell talked about the resilience of the cabinet after President Jose Sirven resigned.

“In one of the most challenging years of transition our cabinet wasn’t rocked in such a way that SGA came crumbling down,” she said.

Rosell, who sits on the Board of Trustees, a mostly symbolic position given to SGC-MMC presidents, pushed her way onto the agenda to present student reports, making the role more productive.

“I think it’s important for the BOT to know that we are being conscious of how we are spending our money and that we are lining it up with metrics,” she said.

Newly confirmed senate speaker Brandon Aquino contradicted Rosell’s optimism saying the senate has only been effective to an extent.

“From the work that most of them put in, it seems to just be a resume booster,” he said

Aquino referenced members that go above and beyond but added they are the minority.

“A lot of members don’t affect change…so I don’t think SGA has been effective throughout the years.”   

Aquino’s own effectiveness has been hindered because of the vacancies in the senate.

“My entire time in senate has been filling in holes, passing legislation to fill in holes to prevent people from abusing the system.”

Aquino explained to student Media in order to increase effectiveness senators need to increase their interactions with students beyond the focus group they currently develop.

“It’s just a matter of having the senators go out to the communities, talk with them for a while, figure out that one thing to tackle and how to specifically tackle the one thing, it’s an accomplishment for them,” he said.

Aquino is currently working on creating a lab coat rental system for CASE students and, of course, mending relationships with SGC-BBC, after the failed constitution which Aquino sat on the committee for and the University-wide congress meeting that spiraled out of control after an outburst from the SGC-BBC Chief Justice calling out president Rosell.

The fall semester at the Biscayne Bay campus was less focused on filling holes and more on preventing the merger mandated by Student Affairs that would have left BBC students with less representation according to President Jefferson Noel.

But SGC-BBC have had their own set of issues to deal with. The senate has six vacancies, something Speaker of the senate John Habib says does not deter them from being effective.

“It’s really not about the number of senators we have but about the quality of the senators we have,” said Habib “Every single senator is working on at least one or two things and taking on chair positions,” said Habib.

Habib is trying to foster more communication between SGC-BBC senators and the deans of their colleges, but currently he and Noel are the main bridge between BBC students and administrators that are mostly on the MMC campus.

SGC-BBC is proportionate to the campus size but still has trouble recruiting new members. Noel does not have an exact diagnosis for the recruitment problem but he attributes it to BBC being a commuter campus and most students not spending extra time on campus.

When asked about the most meaningful achievements SGC-BBC had made for students last semester Noel said their initiative to register students to vote and collecting 200 pounds of food for the food pantry were among them. He also talked about preventing the merging of both SGCs as a victory for his students.

“This may go without saying but probably the thing that affected us the most was what didn’t happen and that was the merge,” Noel said. “Honestly that is where a lot of our energy went the past semester of course, we did a lot of work.”

Even though they have a list of achievements and involved senators, Noel does not believe the SGC-BBC is working at its full potential.

“I’m going to be frank, I think we could’ve done more. We have done a lot but I think we can do more,” said Noel.

Habib said he has spent his time as speaker educating his senators on SGA procedures and structure something he says will ensure senate will run properly even after he is graduated.

In the past SGC-BBC had issues meeting quorum at meetings, and at the start of the year all five chair positions were empty, something Noel and Habib have worked on last semester.

“Now we have all five chair positions filled each with their own committee that meets at least twice a month and from there they work on specific issues,” said Habib.

Small but mighty is the mantra of the SGC-BBC but with budget deliberations around the corner, President Noel is aware of the possibility of getting another budget cut. He said reduced enrollment was the reason for last year’s cut and it will be a defining factor this year as well.

Noel said even though their achievement list was extensive, the budget cuts negatively affect SCG-BBC’s possibility to create new projects and hinder their ability to create meaningful events for students.

“We were able to work with what we had but there is a difference between subsisting and actually thriving and we had to subsist throughout the year and I don’t think that is a good way for a government to operate,” said Noel.

Budget hearings began on Jan. 15 and deliberations begin on Feb. 12.

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