As the fall semester comes to a close, The Daily Beacon has decided to review the actions of your Student Government Association thus far.
The SGA is led by President Sarah Keeton, Vice President M.G. Bailey and Student Services Director Adam Prater. Other students serve in a plethora of leadership roles within the organization.
Last semester, the Beacon resumed its semester look at the effectiveness of SGA, and this year we continue to feel that this in depth analysis of the SGA is important. We often hear on campus that the SGA does "nothing." So we will lay it out here and let you decide.
This semester, the SGA presented 11 bills and three resolutions. After last year's restructuring of the organization, which led to the merging of the Student Senate and the Undergraduate Academic Council, the number of senators doubled, leading us to wonder if the amount of legislation for the student senate would increase two-fold.
The SGA provided the Beacon with a list of goals early in the semester - a list which we have followed the whole semester.
We have chosen what we believe to the most important five priorities off the SGA goals list we were given.
We believe the first priority of the SGA should be to be an active partner in the search for a new president here at UT. The SGA said it planned to publicize the presidential search forum.
It did so when Student Trustee Carol White and Presidential Search Advisory Committee student representative Daniel Klyce sent e-mails to presidents of student organizations and an additional e-mail to all students at UT. The SGA also sponsored legislation encouraging the number of students on the PSAC to be increased. The bill passed 55-0, the Senate suspending the rules to allow quicker consideration and passage and was sent through the red tape to the ears of Gov. Bredesen. We believe this legislation was most important to students this semester.
We feel the SGA needs to be more active in implementing safety features in the campus garages. The SGA did compile a campus safety report that identified areas on campus where safety needs to be improved, but we call on the SGA to be more active during the spring semester in making cameras in campus garages a real reality. We also believe more blue light phones are needed in the Fort Sanders area, where many students reside and visit on a daily basis. We call on City of Knoxville Liaison Chris Kuzur to act with the Knoxville City Council and Mayor-elect Bill Haslam to introduce more blue light phones to the Fort.
We give the "I've got guts" award this semester to Commuter Senator Yazan Damiri, who introduced a bill that would drop the requirement for laptops if you are in the College of Business Administration. Although the bill failed, we say good effort and encourage his fellow senators to follow suit and speak up about controversial issues.
We applaud Arts and Sciences Senators Jessica Hodge and Rachel Clement for introducing legislation to have an early voting site placed on campus for upcoming elections. The bill passed with only four senators disagreeing and one abstaining. We believe this is an important move to increasing the voter turnout on campus.
The SGA senate has only an average of 72.9 percent of senators attending their meetings. We believe senators can do better. If you can't come to meetings, don't run for office.
We have had high expectations from Sarah Keeton this semester. Over the summer, Keeton was active around campus meeting with administrators and traveling to Board of Trustee meetings to represent the student body. Keeton, former chair of the UAC, is well-experienced in SGA. She has proven thus far that she can stand up for student rights and believes in openness as well as scrutiny. We applaud her for her efforts.
On Nov. 11, M.G. Bailey told senators he may start asking for resignations if they did not increase their attendance and participation. The next meeting, attendance was up and there were a record five bills on the table for consideration. We urge Bailey to keep up the pressure.
We do question the number of senators presenting legislation. Minus Senate Chairman Bryce McKenzie, only 16 senators presented legislation as a sponsor or co-sponsor. There are 79 senators that are able to present legislation. We call on McKenzie to more actively solicit legislation from senators serving the students.
Lastly, we call for the SGA to take more definite stances on issues like pay-for-print, the libraries new initiative to charge students for printing past a set quota each semester, finding additional funding sources for student organizations and keep publicizing the availability of the HOPE scholarship to incoming students. We also call for the Graduate Student Senate, Freshman Council and Student Services to keep up their efforts to improving the quality of education and life for UT students.
There will always be room for improvement, and the SGA is no exception to the rule. But they have given a conscious effort. We gave last year's SGA a "B" and believe this year's SGA, only halfway done, is on its way to a successful year. We give the SGA a "B-" thus far.
So as they keep working, we'll keep watching, and we'll let you know how it turns out in May.
- Brooks Brown, government editor