Student government association seeks four new senators

Corrected 2:40 p.m. Feb. 16: An earlier version of this article had the senator application deadline as Feb. 16, it has been corrected to Feb. 17

The Student Government Association (SGA) at Western Carolina University is replacing four senators in the spring 2016 semester. Faculty adviser, Karen Farmer, said the four did not meet semester and cumulative GPA eligibility requirements to carry on.

Students interested in running for a position on SGA next school year can sign up until Wednesday, Feb. 17. Elections will be held March 14-15. Apply here.

The senator replacement process is extensive. A candidate must apply for the position and then interview with senate executives. A majority vote of those executives recommends the candidate to the senate. The senate holds a vote with a 2/3 majority required to confirm the candidate as a senator.

Mid-year senate replacements are not uncommon for SGA. Before the spring semester last year, SGA abruptly removed and replaced four executives and 12 senators.

The Western Carolina Journalist tried to get information about the coup in this article, but was mostly unsuccessful. SGA is notorious for being opaque about its operations and avoids disclosing personnel information to the public due to Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) regulations.

Many students are aware of SGA on campus but draw a blank when asked what the organization does.

“I’ve never put an effort into knowing [what SGA does], but I’ve never really been informed. I would be interested to know what they can do,” Mike Baker, a senior at WCU, said. “People would appreciate them a lot more if they at least knew what they did.”

Amber Degree, a friend of an executive member of SGA, said she thinks SGA is in charge of the budgets for organizations on campus.

“I never ask him what he does though, [I] probably should. I’ve heard people say bad things about SGA too,” Degree said.

SGA president, Hank Henderson, responded to criticisms of being secretive on the Feb. 3 episode of WCJ Wheekly Update.

“I think there’s a misconception between secretive and what we do,” Henderson said. “Most of our work is done around boardroom tables and with upper administration.”

Henderson explained SGA holds several events per year, but concentrates most of its energy on academic and administrative affairs such as hosting forums to get student feedback and acting as a liaison between students and the administration.

Henderson spends a lot of his time with executive members of SGA and with WCU top brass, like the provost and the board of trustees, discussing student issues and affairs.

“It can appear that we’re being secretive but, in fact, we’re just not in the students faces as much as other organizations,” Henderson said.

Funding for SGA comes from part of the $286 student activity fee.

This year SGA’s budget is $171,790 of which $21,790 is money they haven’t spent from last year’s budget.
The largest expense go toward payment of the salaries for SGA staff and senators at $54,420 overall.
Senators are paid a stipend of $313 per semester according to the current budget and have one-year terms with no term limits, according to the SGA constitution. The SGA president and the vice chancellor of student affairs determines how much pay each position receives.

The SGA president receives a yearly stipend of $6,020 in addition to summer pay and a $5,000 discretionary fund for his office. Henderson used all of his 2015 discretionary fund to make the Matt Stillwell concert at the homecoming game on Oct. 29, free to students.

SGA allocates $2,500 for “SGA uniforms (for professional attire)” according to the current budget.

See the detailed breakdown of the SGA budget for 2015-2016.

The SGA actually orders polos, university name tags, t-shirts, etc. that members are required to wear to formal events/meetings.  We purchase these online through a distributor and they are quite pricy which is why we have continuously allocated that amount,” SGA director of finance, Jonathan Parisi, said in an email.

Senators keep whatever apparel was provided to them after their terms are up.

Henderson and his team are working on promoting the state-wide bond referendum that could bring $110 million to Western Carolina for a new natural sciences building.

SGA meets every Monday night at 7 p.m. in the Cardinal room of the University Center. All senate meetings are open to the public.


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