What Is Student Government, and What Can It Do for You?
In many ways similar to an actual government, a student government is largely created to be a voice for all students. Ideally, a student government should be a forum where students can come and discuss major campus issues, as well as plan how to make their campus a beacon of student life and learning. This discussion should be all-inclusive; a successful forum will do its best to reach all parts of the community it represents. That being said, students also need to be invested for their voice to be heard. If you have an issue or an idea for campus improvement, it is imperative that you talk to your student representatives and work towards that vision. While this may seem like common sense, all too often we can get wrapped up in our studies and countless extracurriculars, and we forget to do our part in making our campus a better place. At the end of the day, though, we have to ask the all-important question; what’s in it for me?
Here at SUNY Poly, our student government is made up of several different aspects, all serving the purpose of enhancing student life. At the core are the executive members of the SGU (Student Government at Utica), which consists of the President, Vice President, Treasurer, and Secretary. Operating similar to a real government, these positions are the flagships of leadership for students and serve as the cornerstone for facilitating change on campus. These students take on a tremendous responsibility, and work with students and staff for countless hours every week to advocate for those they represent. They are supported by a number of directors who are chosen to help with specific areas, such as development, community service, and public relations. Elections for these officials take place in the spring of every academic year. Think of this group as your executive branch of government.
Next, we have our legislative branch, which is the Senate. The Senate is made up of at most fifteen students, with the ideal make-up being three senators from each class, including the graduate class. This, of course, means that each academic class has equal representation and voting power in all legislative matters. While all of the seats may not always be filled, the legislative rules and governing documents were set up this way to ensure that there is fair representation for all students on campus. These senators are truly the conduit between students and the SUNY Poly administration. They are the active voice of all students on campus, passing bills and resolutions to improve campus life and education. Every week they discuss legislation that will affect all students, as well as conducting committee meetings throughout the week (or bi-weekly in some cases) to address specific issues, such as the food on campus or the game room. If you have a major concern and are looking for a place to have your voice heard, talking with a senator is a great option. The current SGU senators’ contact information should be available on PolySync under the Student Government at Utica portal. Senator seats are filled every fall and may also be filled by special election.
The final two aspects of student government are the Chief Justice and the Organizations. As you can imagine, the Chief Justice acts as the judiciary branch of the SGU, ensuring that both the Senate and the executives are adhering to their bylaws and constitution and that they are keeping the students best interests in mind. Although the Chief Justice is a more intangible position (and may not exist at times), in the event of a major breach of the written rules of the SGU, a Chief Justice must be present to call for a constitutional court. In this court, the Chief Justice and several appointed justices would review a petitioned violation of the bylaws and constitution and come to a verdict on how to handle the situation. It is important to remember that a student government is indeed composed of students, so punishments must be stern but not overly harsh. These students are taking time out of their schedules to advocate for all of us, so a judiciary branch should be focused on guidance and assistance rather than punishment.
Finally, we have the organizations, an aspect of the SGU that most students are probably familiar with. If you’ve been to a student-run event on campus, you’ve most likely run into a student organization at some point. Currently, there are six student-run organizations: the After-Hours Activities Board, the Campus Activities Board, the Club-Funding Board, Wildcat Media, Genesis, and The Factory Times. To go into detail about the ins and outs of each organization would take several articles, so I will do my best to summarize quickly. CAB and AHAB work towards putting on events for students, with CAB dedicated to outside talent and AHAB focusing on homegrown events showcasing student talent. CFB provides funding for all clubs on campus and provides a space for people to register clubs centered around things they enjoy. Wildcat media provides audio and video support for events on campus, and also provides students with a radio/TV station to enjoy. Genesis focuses on the yearbook as well as capturing all of the awesome events on campus with their photographers. Finally, The Factory Times focuses on student articles and reporting on the happenings here at Poly. These organizations are truly the backbone of the SGU, providing students with a higher quality of life and a way to help you unwind after a tough week of class.
So now the all-important question; what’s in it for me? Well, to give you a few examples…
The student center meal plans were an initiative started thanks to food committee.
Improvements to the wifi and internet infrastructure were due in part to resolutions by tech committee.
Breakfast options at the student center were also an initiative started by food committee.
The blue bike racks at the Adirondack and Mohawk living complexes were a resolution proposed by the SGU Senate in 2015.
Academic affairs committee worked to ensure that there were “flow-charts” available for all students in all majors so they could know which classes were vital to their degrees.
These are just a few examples of the strides that the SGU as a whole has made in trying to better campus life here at SUNY Poly. Now obviously there are still problems on campus, some that SGU may not be able to solve. However, they can certainly advocate for solutions to these problems. It’s important to realize that the reason this entity exists is to be a voice for students, but that requires some two-way communication. If you are passionate about your college career and want to make SUNY Poly a better place, don’t rule out talking with your student representatives! PolySync has a ton of great information available, and most of the SGU documentation should is uploaded there. If you’re looking for a chance to be heard, attend your next SGU open meeting, every Thursday at 12:30 pm in the Student Center MPR (unless posted otherwise).