Sam Houston State University’s Student Government Association (SGA) exists to represent each and every student. Certain members of the SGA are paid handsomely for their roles. Soon new elections will take place for senators of their respective colleges.
Along with election of the senators, the student body will be voting on the SGA constitution.
SGA is structured much like the U.S. government with an executive, legislative, and judicial branch. The executive branch consists of the president, vice president, treasurer, secretary, and chief of staff elected by the student body.
According the SGA website, “The Executive Board acts in capacity to streamline the business of the student senate, enforce any legislation produced by the student senate, and acts as the bridge between the student body as well as campus and State Administration.”
According to Dean of Students and SGA advisor John Yarabeck SGA has made improvements in trying to follow through with their message.
“I think there have been major strides in SGA’s outreach via social media to other students this year,” Yarabeck said. “The SGA meetings are open to any student to attend. Members often table in the Bearkat Plaza to solicit input and learn what is important to the members of the student body.”
President of the College Republicans Leah Boyd said she does not feel like SGA does a good job at fulfilling their slogan.
“I do not feel like the SGA represents me as a student,” Boyd said. “I think they do a poor job of keeping us informed on what’s going on with our school and within SGA.”
Currently the SGA president is political science senior Jacqueline Bolden; the vice president is biology junior Briauna Augustus; the secretary is accounting sophomore Chloe Henze; the treasurer is agricultural sciences sophomore David Eller; and the chief of staff is business administration sophomore Karla Victor.
The Executive branch is the only branch to receive compensation. President Bolden is paid $900 per month. Vice President Augustus is paid $750 Treasurer Eller is paid $425.Secretary Henze is paid $425. Chief of Staff Victor is paid $275. The executives are paid for their work as they spend much of their time representing the student body.
Executive student assistant to SGA sophomore Maya Palacios explains why the executive branch gets paid
“Most members of clubs and organizations are unpaid,” said Palacios said. “The executives are paid for their work as they spend much of their time representing the student body and it is a real job.”
Executive cabinets are the only SGA members that are compensated. This has been the practice for the last 10 plus years.
“It is a fairly regular occurrence for these positions to get paid at other major universities as well,” Yarabeck said. “A great deal of time is required to do these positions.”
However, SGA transparency is still a concern for some students.
The Legislative branch of the SGA consists of Senators from each college.
According to the SGA website, “Their role includes drafting legislation, facilitating talks with the student body, hosting events, and taking actions that benefit students within their constituencies.”
The Senate has the most regular elections and highest turnover rate. Because the senators are closest to students, representing their colleges’ interests, it can be argued they are the best and most transparent branch of the SGA. The senators are uncompensated.
The Judicial branch of the SGA “Consists of the SGA Supreme Court and all lower courts to ensure the effectiveness of our governing documents,” according to the SGA website.
The judicial branch has 4 faculty and 5 student justices, and the election commission. Like US Supreme Court Justices, SGA justices exist to interpret and enforce the constitution. The judicial branch is also uncompensated.
The SGA constitution is scheduled to be ratified by the student body during elections on April 19 and 20.
In order for this to occur, 2/3 of the student body must approve.
According to SGA senator Logan Kennemer one of the main changes in the constitution is to separate the legislative, judicial, and executive branches.
“The constitution spells out our presidential powers and limits, and we will get rid of the paid position chief of staff,” Kennemer said. “A change to the legislative branch will be the new apportionment of seats. SGA has never come close to filling all the seats and having too many members that do not actively participate causes issues with quorum and getting business done.”
The potential new constitution will add special constituencies such as distance learners, first year students, Honors College, and grad students that will allow more students to have a voice on campus.
“Overall, it is more comprehensive than our old constitution and strives to create a more efficient SGA and seeks to fix issues we have had in the past,” Kennemer said. “We had meetings throughout the semester that were open to anyone to come in and give input as well as daily updates which were sent to anyone interested. This constitution was the outcome of our combined effort.”
The last time the SGA constitution was amended was in 2014.
According to Palacios, the purpose of the SGA is to serve students.
“If there are issues to address we are there to help deal with them,” Palacios said. “We are the bridge between President Hoyt. We are here to help students make the adjustment to college and have an easier time during their time here. We want to make sure they have the best possible time and that their time here is comfortable. They helped me a lot.”
Any student with a 2.0 GPA can become a senator for their respective college, but they must come to a meeting to go through the process.
“I think SGA serves as an excellent way for students to get involved and represent other SHSU students in a very meaningful way,” Yarabeck said.
Even if one does not run, it is important to be up to date with the SGA and attend meetings to ensure the SGA truly is representing the interests of all of us, and not just those in many organizations. For more information on how to join, stop by the SGA office in the LSC room 326.