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We learned this week that Student Government Inc. was not informed of the University’s plan to change the meal plan policy for townhouse students before it was public. This is stunning. SGI leaders are elected by their peers to be the face and voice of students to the University. And as our representatives, they should be informed, if not consulted, of changes that directly affect students–especially when it affects their finances.

The decision to bypass SGI—which hasn’t been explained publicly, or, to our knowledge, to SGI itself—begs the theoretical question regarding why SGI even exists. Surely the University had to know that the decision to mandate meal plans for townhouse students was not going to be popular. If the University won’t at least pretend to engage them on an issue like this that directly impacts students, then what purpose does SGI serve?

Let’s be clear. SGI does great work. SGI is known for planning some of the best events on campus, from “Rock the Red” to Relay for Life. Their committees work tirelessly on different aspects of student life–from Student Services, which, coincidentally, makes dining one of the key things they work on, to the Organizations committee, which works with current organizations and helps form new ones, to the School Spirit committee, which is pretty self-explanatory.

SGI’s primary purpose, however, is to advocate for and represent the student body at St. John’s, according to its official website.

But how are the students in SGI going to do their jobs to the fullest extent if the University doesn’t engage them? The short answer: they can’t, and in this case, it was out of their control.

The University had several avenues it could have explored prior to setting the meal plan policy. And with the help of SGI, through input from students, they may have found useful data that could have contributed to their final decision.

We wish the administration would have reached out to SGI’s Research and Development committee and had them send out a survey to students regarding meal plans. This could have gauged student interest, and maybe it could have led to a discussion between Campus Dining and the Student Services committee on what kind of changes could have been possible in lieu of mandating meal plans for townhouse students who may not want one. Or they could have reached out to SGI’s e-board to consult them on their proposal.

At the SGI floor meeting Monday, it was revealed that SGI will meet with University officials regarding the meal plan decision. This is long overdue. But now there are two issues that beg an explanation. Why did the University make this decision? And why did they bypass SGI–and bypass any student input–in the process?

As students and believers in openness and transparency, we hope SGI gets the answers it deserves in their meeting.

The meal plan policy has been set. But we hope that the University has taken a lesson from this. In our reporting, we’ve heard from students who said they are moving off-campus now; students who expressed wishes that the University had sent out a survey before making the change; and students who were, like us, shocked that SGI wasn’t consulted prior.

SGI is here for the students. We implore the University to seek their feedback in the future–especially on matters that directly affect students. Without consulting them, how can students trust that policies are being formed in their best interests?

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The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University
Flames of the Torch