Help Wanted: SGA low on senators

lowSGA’s first senate meeting of the semester on Jan. 8 | Elise Gregg, PantherNOW

Elise Gregg | Editor-in-Chief

For student government, the new semester started far more mildly than the last one ended, with senate chambers somewhat bare.

Senators kicked off the spring on Jan. 8 with 12 vacancies, bringing the total number of student senate members down to 35. 

“Some committees are down to three so there’s a lot of urgency to fill those vacancies,” said senate president Kaily LaChapelle during his executive report to senators. 

Vacant positions include those representing the College of Business, Communications, Architecture and the Arts, Upper Division for the Biscayne Bay Campus, as currently listed on SGA’s website

LaChapelle also mentioned the School of International and Public Affairs and the Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work among the delegations with vacancies.

There may be others, LaChapelle said. Some of the difficulty in filling those positions is the gap between confirming who is eligible to stay each semester based on GPA, credit hours and other requirements for senate membership. 

“We’re waiting on all the verification at the same time the general elections are about to take place, so it’s a very tricky time,” LaChapelle told PantherNOW. 

LaChapelle also pointed out that in between processing applications, more vacancies may arise, particularly as senators and SGA’s judicial branch file writs to address issues with attendance. 

In the interim, the lack of senators makes it difficult for committees to get work done. Erika Noel, representing the College of Engineering and Computing, is one of two members on the Health and Wellness Committee. 

With just her as chair and business senator Jose Mejia as vice chair, they’re unsure of whether they can even do anything without a full team, per senate rules.

“I do have to meet with our advisor,” said Noel, “to see if it’s just the two of us, can we have a meeting in and of itself.”

“And if that weren’t possible, essentially tabling everything that we want to bring to the spring until we get those positions filled.”

After what Noel described as a productive fall semester, with her committee finalizing several programming initiatives, the senate is unable to execute those initiatives because they simply don’t have the team they need.

“It’s just myself and my vice chair, trying to at least start off with the Student Health Fair and that will take a lot of our resources,” said Noel. “But there are about five other initiatives that we were hoping to bring to the spring semester, that if we did have a whole team that could really help us.”

Spring is a fast-paced semester and a hard time to fill positions and to get work done in the senate, LaChapelle said, but it’s also an opportunity for students. 

“There’s a lot happening, but it does not mean that that isn’t the challenge that we face every year in spring,” LaChapelle told PantherNOW. “I would say that because of general elections, more publicity is on SGA which helps in some way with retention with people showing up.”

Students interested in being senators can apply for currently vacant positions, remaining in office for the rest of the spring, or run in general elections for any positions they’re eligible for, serving from summer 2024 to spring 2025. 

Students can represent delegations they’re a part of – for example, representing SIPA as a student with a major under that school, or applying to be a housing senator if they live on campus. 

The current vacant positions are: 1 MMC Housing, 2 CARTA, 1 CASE, 1 Upper Division BBC, 1 Hospitality, 2 Business, 1 Online, 2 SIPA, 1 Public Health and Social Work.

According to LaChapelle, senators must also maintain a minimum 2.0 semesterly GPA (2.5 overall) and nine credit hours, as well as attending senate and committee meetings each week and holding three office hours a week. 

Students can apply on Panther Connect (and view the full list of requirements), with vacant position applications open until Jan. 18. General election applications open the following day. 

After those close, which LaChapelle said would be in early February, students can once again submit applications for vacant spring positions. 

“The more the merrier,” said LaChapelle. “If you have any interest in creating policies for your students, apply.”

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