Burnes: New Approach Yields Progress for SGA

If you are used to reading President Dudley’s column here, I hope I can be a capable vice-presidential stand-in, as we have decided to take turns writing the weekly word from SGA-land. That said, it has been a busy semester so far, and it’s hard to believe it is almost over – especially for those of us who are seniors. We’ve seen parents come and go and the first snow hit us abruptly, we survived another stressful month of mid-terms, and there is plenty left to go before summer comes. Through all this, your Student Government Association (SGA) has been hard at work advocating student interest and addressing your concerns in areas such as dining services, athletic attendance, communications, community councils, Spring Party Weekend and many more.

Some of you may feel you have not heard much about SGA so far this year, or think that we haven’t gotten anything done. In part, you would be right, because the Executive Board this year is taking a different approach to progress, with more introspective goals and a less project-focused mindset.

Our aim is to tweak the process and structure of SGA so that it is more efficient and effective for you, while developing the leadership skills of the senators that you elected. This all may sound clich?e, but trust me when I say it is really starting to work. Because we have shifted tremendous responsibilities from the executives to the senators, we have had a short incubation period while waiting for these talented students to gain confidence and a true understanding of Colgate’s broad governance structure. They have more than caught up to the learning curve, so expect to hear about and feel the impact of the SGA in coming weeks.

So what are we doing now? One of the newest and coolest projects on the SGA horizon is the Athletics Task Force, a group of 20 students composed of 10 varsity athletes and 10 student-leaders. As far as we know this will be the first time that these two groups sit down at a table together to figure out how to ignite the traditionally vibrant Colgate spirit surrounding athletics.

The Chenango Valley was once well known as the home of the best fans in America, and those of you who don’t believe me should find a copy of Roar From the Valley – every Colgate student needs to read it once. We may not be able to bring back the train rides from Hamilton Station to Syracuse for a football game and an appearance by the famed Hoodoo, but we just might get you all to show Colgate’s greatest tradition a little more love.

We have established another task force to address the state of dining services here at Colgate, since it has become clear that constant student feedback makes a big difference in this area. The committee will meet regularly with George Murray and Mike Stagnaro of Sodexho, and will work all year to bring our dining options up to par with those of local peers such as Cornell and Hamilton. In our experience, George and Mike take action on almost all student feedback, and we think great progress can be made.

One of the most important projects we are currently thinking about was started yesterday in a meeting attended by Amy, SGA treasurer Chris Woodyard, SGA parliamentarian Drew Lane and Colgate Director of Budget and Decision Support Hugh Bradford. They met to discuss raising the Student Activities Fee for all Colgate students in order to allow the BAC to fund many more student programs. Some of you may have read in this paper and other places that the BAC is out of money for the semester, and almost everyone gets angry when their events can not be funded.

The truth is that the BAC has little to do with these problems – they fund every proposal they can, as long as it addresses a few primary organizational issues, until they run out of money. The simple fact is that compared to the rising costs of live music, event services, facility rental and an increasing number of groups requesting money, the Student Activities Fee has increased very little.

Our student body is one of the most active anywhere, and it is a shame that our ambitions for student life are limited by financial concerns while our overall bill for attending this University shoots above $40,000. We hope to work together with Hugh and Financial Vice-President David Hale to solve this problem in a big way.

I will end this week by reminding every one of you to read the senate minutes, communicate with their senators and raise awareness of important issues on this campus. I know many of you chose this school because it is active in extracurricular, intellectual, athletic and social options, and not because U.S. News says Colgate is on the rise. So please prove it: get involved, whether with the debate team or with a social event, and keep this campus the vibrant place generations of alums remember it as.

That’s all for now. Have an amazing weekend.