The Student Government Association President Chris Pace announced the appointment of five senators to an ad hoc committee at the organization’s Sept. 8 meeting that will sort out exactly what it means to “take a more active role in activities programming” on campus.
The senate approved a goal to increase SGA involvement in activities programming at the August retreat, but the proposal caused discord among senate members who were concerned that SGA’s expectation was too vague and that the goal was passed without a proper understanding of the role of the Activities Programming Board.
“The Senate hasn’t come forth with a very clear objective,” Chris Pace, SGA president said. The exact statement that was voted on was to take more active role, but “that’s a pretty vague goal,” Pace said.
The purpose of the committee is to “further define the vague goal” set forth at the retreat, Pace said.
He appointed senators Brandon Neukam, Michael Tobergta and Slater Medley; senator and Activities Programming Board President Dustin Lewis and Executive Vice President Eric Fegan to the committee.
“(They) represent a diverse group of students who have…varying views in regard to what our involvement should be,” Pace said.
Two of those appointed to the committee who hold opposing views are Fegan and Lewis. At the retreat, Fegan spoke in favor of SGA absorbing the APB.
He told NKU President James Votruba, “We would like to be THE programming board for the university.”
Lewis, on the other hand, maintains that SGA and APB should remain separate organizations because of their varying roles. SGA is a governing body and should work on policy-making and lobbying for student interests such as decreased tuition and increased funding, Lewis said, while APB works to provide diverse social and educational events for students to enjoy.
“It would be detrimental for the two organizations to fuse,” Lewis said.
Lewis said Pace’s choice of committee members was “an interesting selection.”
“It should be a little more diverse but I’m OK with it,” he said.
Lewis said one problem at the retreat was unequal representation of the student body because not all senators were present. He said that “voices of the opposition were not there,” including himself, Brandon Newcomb and Katie Clark, all of which were at a leadership conference at the time of the retreat.
Many senators didn’t know how to vote because they were uniformed, Lewis said. “Something I would like to double-check in the future is just that we verify information before we make decisions,” Lewis said.
“I want to make sure that any decision SGA does make, is going to be something that is going to be effective for the university,” Lewis said.
Senator Brandon Hill said he was also concerned about the lack of knowledge displayed by those at the retreat. “Some people said they’d want to swallow APB, basically,” Hill said, adding that the same senators who proposed taking over APB who rarely, if ever, attended APB events.
“It was a huge topic of debate…how can you take it over without a clear idea of what it does?” Hill said.
Mark Shanley, vice president for Student Affairs, said he heard lots of comments at the retreat regarding APB but the senators weren’t in congruence.
“They will have to get their arms around what they meant,” he said.
Fegan said part of the Executive Board’s job is to work out the details when presented with a vague goal. He said the ad hoc committee would help sort through the details, which will then be brought to the Senate.
The Executive Board takes an oath to carry out the goals of the Senate, those who represent the student body, Fegan said, “So, whether we always agree with the goals they take or not, there’s 30 of them to come together to make that decision and it’s kind of our job to run with that goal…and to actually try to make it happen.”
Pace said, “Whatever passes through the Senate, I will support whole-heartedly,” even if that means no proposal at all, he said.
One argument for the absorption or, at least collaboration, of SGA and APB is that this type of merge is a trend happening at other Kentucky universities. However, Angel Lee, president of the Students Activities Board at the University of Kentucky, said SGA members brought up the idea of merging the two organizations last year at UK, but combining them was “never an idea that was entertained.”
“I can confidently say that the majority of students would not want that,” Lee said.
NKU President James Votruba said it is important to have continuity and a voice from Student Affairs on the Activities Programming Board because the APB supports many things that are very important to student retention. He said he is in favor of SGA having some influence on activities programming, he is not in favor of SGA having sole authority.
“I believe in shared authority, shared responsibility,” Votruba said.
Lewis said there is room for collaboration but, “absorbing APB is not quite the answer,” he said.
“I think that…perhaps having a representative of SGA serving on APB might be a good idea or having APB representation in the Senate, such as myself, being able to say, ‘hey guys this is how APB is spending money, this is what we’re doing,’ but I also don’t want it to be a system of checks and balances. I don’t think that APB should have to go through the Senate to do anything,” Lewis
“I would be strongly concerned with this becoming a power issue,” Lewis said. “If we give SGA control over all programming bodies or we give SGA control over all fee allocations…then we have a very small group of students making decisions for everyone.”
Hill said SGA would “get a lot more done by being respectful and by being honest in your intentions and…simply working with other groups than you do by taking over. We’re in school to learn, not to initiate a hostile take-over,” he said.