SGA: Politicians in Training


The Student Government Association (SGA) is the bridge between Colgate’s student body and the administration. Ideally, the organization functions as the voice of the students, representing them and their best interests. Modeled after the U.S. governmental structure, the SGA is split into three branches: the executive branch, comprised of the SGA president, four vice presidents and a cabinet; the legislative branch, including the Senate, Governance Boards, Center for Leadership and Student Involvement (CLSI) and a CLSI liaison; and the Class Councils. Students interested in a cabinet position are either nominated or invited to apply, and then the Senate must approve or deny their application, according to SGA’s 2019 constitution. The Budget Allocations Committee (BAC) functions as the treasury of SGA.

“Along with acting as a liaison between the administration and the student body, SGA is also responsible for approving new clubs to provide them with more access to resources, passing resolutions which express our support for new initiatives, responsibilities, or university-wide solutions. In the past, SGA has worked on improving the residential life housing process, offering and promoting safety and wellness training, increasing transparency by providing space for student input and creating opportunities for cross-collaboration amongst student organizations,” SGA President senior Amarachi Iheanyichukwu said.

According to the SGA Constitution from fall 2019, the SGA’s website and the SGA email sent on Sep. 1, the SGA numbers at least 85 members when all positions are filled. These numbers can be divided down to three chambers, five executive positions, at least 14 cabinet members, 40 members of the Senate and a parliamentarian, seven full members in the BAC and two alternate members and at least four class council members per class year. 

“The SGA is way too big,” senior Jared Lampal said. “I understand they have the best interest of the school in mind, but [sometimes it seems] like just a resumé padder, to be honest.” 

This year’s executive board will have four different vice presidents for the first time. Last year’s own historic executive board of two co-presidents and two vice presidents amended the constitution for this change. Each of the members of this year’s executive board ran individually during the spring semester, resulting in Iheanyichukwu winning the presidential election, senior Ben Becker as vice president of communications, junior Usman Ahmad as vice president of finance and senior Cole Boquist as vice president of student organizations. The position of vice president of advocacy is currently vacant. 

“Having four of us working the same job was really great because we were able to tackle so much more and we could split off projects, so people who had their own independent projects would be able to tackle them,” former SGA co-president Kate Bundy ‘20 said. “I know that’s why when we restructured the government, we wanted to push a lot more people into the higher levels of the executive.”

The Senate introduces and votes on legislation and resolutions, as well as amendments to the SGA bylaws. The BAC functions as the treasury, approving or denying budget requests. The budget requests must constitute seven percent or less of the funds available for allocation in a semester and be made by SGA-recognized student groups and task forces, SGA itself and the Max Shacknai Center for Outreach, Volunteerism and Education (COVE). Any budget request above seven percent is voted on by the Senate. Oversight for the BAC this year will come from Ahmad. The class councils will work to coordinate and plan events, as well as advocate for their respective class years, according to the constitution. The vice presidents’ roles for the semester are still, at least publicly, unclear, due to the novelty of the positions. These cabinet position applications are currently open: Chief of Staff, two Election Commissioners, Webmaster, Diversity Affairs Coordinator, International Student Life Policy Coordinator, Sustainability Coordinator, Positive Sexuality Liaison, Wellness Coordinator, Residential Life Liaison, Broad Street Liaison, two Athletic Life Coordinators and Recording Secretary. Their roles are defined in the email sent by the SGA on Sep. 1. The deadline to apply is Tuesday, Sep. 8 at 12:00 p.m. The SGA executive board will review all applications, and Iheanyichukwu will be the deciding vote. This is a presidential power that is not written into the constitution, but necessary as the Covid-19 shortened spring semester prevented the election of a new senate.  

“The SGA President is essentially the primary figure in charge of representing the Association and its members to administrators, faculty, trustees, alumni, and all others. Internally, the President is also responsible for appointing executive positions, regularly meeting with administrative and academic departments, and overseeing the initiatives, training and procedures of the Senate,” Iheanyichukwu said.

While the SGA strives to better the lives of Colgate’s students, students at Colgate believe that the organization is not without flaws. Their power for change, for example, is somewhat limited. Any attempt to drastically change the University’s culture or the day-to-day lives of its students relies more on the approval of the Colgate administration and the faculty rather than the SGA.  

“[The Senate] can either pass a bill or a resolution. A bill, basically, is about what Senate does or is trying to amend a Senate procedure. Someone might be like ‘Hey, let’s pass a bill so that we don’t have to wear suits at SGA anymore…’ so, that would be a bill because it actually had to do with the own governance of SGA,” Boquist said. “The other thing is a resolution. A resolution doesn’t necessarily mean any change is happening, but saying that we’re calling for change as SGA. [For example,] we could pass a resolution saying that we want more water bottle stations or something like that. And it’s not saying that we’re necessarily doing it, but we’re sending a [statement] to the administration saying the student body wants this to happen. So it’s not an actual action, as much as it is like a call to action for something that’s out of our scope and power.”

The executive boards’ attempts to reduce spending or create new institutions at Colgate, such as multicultural Greek life, can sometimes be slowed down by bureaucracy.  

“…the biggest kind of those big frustrating moments are moments when you realize that although you are the student governance system and we’re supposed to be autonomous, we’re really so dependent on the motions of many other administrators and people at the higher levels of the university that it takes so long for things to progress,” Bundy said. “There were so many things that I think we wish we could have done faster and … been able to demonstrate to the student body that we did, that were really out of our hands.”

Some students’ frustrations with SGA point to a lack of transparency. According to the SGA bylaws, a bill or resolution only has to be shared with the student body if a Senator calls for a referendum and the vote passes with a two-thirds majority. Senate resolutions and bills are accessible to all, but they are not necessarily publicized. As of right now, to see the resolutions that have been proposed for voting, one must go to the SGA website and look through the voting records. While the Senate voting records are available online through the SGA website, individual voting records are not easily accessible. The voting records show when the Senate voted on a bill, a resolution, appointments to the BAC and appointments to the SGA cabinet. The last vote archived on the website is from Apr. 30, 2019. 

“I think that they need to be more transparent to the rest of the student body about what they actually do and how they do it,” junior Sam Brottman said. “That being said, I think all the kids in it are trying their best and are put in a near impossible situation.”

The SGA’s efforts for transparency, however, are often ignored by the student body. Senate meetings occur weekly, traditionally on Tuesdays at 7 p.m., and are open to all.

“I would say, on average, it’s probably one [non-SGA student attending]… If people don’t have a reason, such as needing to be there to present something or get approved, there’ll be weeks where no one shows up,” Boquist said. “There’s also been times when there’s been a controversial thing going through where we’ve had, like, 20 people show up for one day, but I would say that’s not the norm.”

While the role of what the SGA is or should be is up for debate, its function as the connection between the student body and administration is crucial to ensuring that student voices are heard on campus, according to class of ‘20 alum and former SGA President Christian Johns.

“SGA has to make sure that it’s reaching out as much as it can and partnering and making sure that it is that link. And a lot of the time, with Colgate SGA specifically, it is the bridge. [People] talk about building bridges a lot, but I think SGA is that bridge,” Johns said. “But, you know, a lot of it’s a philosophical, ideological conversation, like what do the people actually think [the] SGA should do? And whoever is in that role, I really think that they should make sure that they are the bridge builders, because we really don’t have another group like that that has been around for a long time that has as much impact, that can really connect people together.”

With issues concerning inequality and systemic injustice being a focal point of the American government this summer, some members of SGA view addressing these issues within the Colgate community as crucial. 

“My entire presidential platform revolved around the issues of inequity that permeate every element of Colgate’s community whether that’s socially, academically, or within the university’s handling of diversity, equity, and inclusion. This year, more than ever, the need to make systemic change within our university is especially important and I hope to develop, participate, and oversee projects that hold the pursuit of equity as a number one priority. I have a myriad of initiatives that I plan to pursue including combating food insecurity, increasing advocacy/resources for survivors, creating an anti-racist culture throughout the university and developing systems that encourage transparent and timely communication between the administration, the student government association and the student body,” Iheanyichukwu said.