As the 2002-03 Executive Board of Student Government, Inc. begins its reign next month, it prompts a question that many St. John’s students ask: What is Student Government and what does it do?
“As long as you are a governing body, such as Student Government, there will always be misconceptions and a lack of understanding as to what you actually do,” said Aion Hoque, president-elect of Student Government. “For the average student, I think the best understanding would come from seeing everything that government does during a year.”
The main purpose of the 12-year-old organization is to represent the undergraduate student population and to coordinate and regulate most of the student activities and organizations across campus.
Student Government serves as a funnel, allocating activity fees to the budgets of the 150-plus student organizations and Student Government committees which, in turn, provide students with events and services.
“Student Government offers many opportunities and responsibilities that another organization might not, such as having its creative side in programming, but also its legislating side,” said vice president-elect John Hewson.
The organization is also responsible for creating different programs and activities, like the Winter Carnival and Spring Fling, something that, Hewson said, the organization has drifted away from over time.
“For so long government has strayed from the goal of being there for the general student because government has focused so much on the day-to-day operation of what goes on in the UC,” he said.
Student Government is comprised of four central (officers president, vice president, secretary and treasurer), three senators, 42 student representative seats and eight committees.
Representatives, two students from each class in every college elected by their peers, vote on all non-academic policies and budgets for organizations and attend faculty council meetings for their college.
“The representatives of Student Government have the real power of government as they make up the majority of the voting floor during meetings,” said Hewson.
“Representatives are also expected to be ambassadors for government through their work in the committees, on faculty councils or even in their own organizations.”
The government committees include the Academic Affairs, Budget, Elections, Organizations, Public Relations, School Spirit and the Student Affairs Committees.
“In a lot of ways, the committees are the lifeblood of Student Government,” said Hewson. “The major works and programs that Student Government plans itself are handled by the standing committees.”
The Academic Affairs Committee works with faculty councils and addresses issues pertaining to St. John’s curriculum, grading, graduation requirements and coordinating “Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities.”
The Student Affairs Committee puts together various events and undertakes projects such as security and classroom surveys that help Student Government stay in touch with the general student body.
The Budget Committee reviews all the organizational requests for funding from the Student Activities Fund, while the Elections Committee organizes all Student Government elections throughout the year.
The Organizations Committee handles the formation of new organizations on campus, regulates the activities of the established organizations, allocates office space for the organizations and holds the Organizational Congress once a month.
The Public Relations Committee is responsible for the recruitment of students, advertising of activities and coordinating the Spring Activities Fair. The School Spirit Committee is responsible for enhancing school spirit throughout St. John’s and sponsors road trips for various athletic events and Homecoming.
With all of the committees and representatives, reaching the general student body is still difficult.
“I think regardless of the focus of government on either programming or being primarily a legislative body, it is always difficult to reach the majority of students,” Hewson said. “The solution has to come from recognizing that problem and then doing something about it. Then we can start thinking about reaching the majority of the St. John’s students.”
As members of the Experienced Peer Advocating and Nurturing Diversity (EXPAND), Hoque and Hewson hope to get back to serving the average student. “EXPAND has to bring Student Government back to the general student of the University,” Hoque said. “There are so many students that come to school and either go home right afterwards or never get involved. We want those students to be exposed to the great programs and opportunities that getting involved in Student Government and the other organizations can bring.”