The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

Fireside With SGA: A 200-Year-Old Right to Self-Governance

For those of you wondering, my name is Jonathan Eaton, and I am a senior and the President of the Student Government Association (SGA). Sparing lengthy introductions, I write to you today with my views on the state of our campus and how, in the long term, I see the SGA playing a part in its improvement. 

As much as I try to avoid them, Yik Yak comments and sidebar conversations permeate this campus. Sometimes, they’re meant to be a jest. Other times, however, they represent the unadulterated views of the student body on the student experience, which are the subject of this piece. 

The SGA has, of course, been the subject of such comments and conversations — and often not for the greatest of reasons. Whether it’s a commentary on the Springfest concert or the age-old “What does the SGA even do?” inquiry, we are situated firmly within the crosshairs of public opinion. 

I am not opposed to this. As purported representatives of the greater population, we should not aim to fly under the radar or avoid criticism. Rather, we should embrace it. Your opinions are the reason we exist. If the SGA were constantly praised or commended for its impact or policy, it would indicate either that not every opinion is properly represented or that we aren’t taking enough risks in our journey to improve this campus. 

What I am concerned about is that most of these opinions appear in private conversation, the many great columns of The Colgate Maroon-News, such as ’Gate Take, or on anonymous forums. The SGA is never the first outlet, even when that’s what it was created for.  

Of course, I, as the current SGA President, see this as an issue. I ran for this position because I felt as though I could represent your opinions to the proper audience and help usher in new policies that reflected those opinions.

There have been glimpses of reflective new policies across campus: For instance, alongside a few key members of the Colgate University administration, I helped to brainstorm and implement a credit-bearing PE course on financial literacy, which piloted as “Free Meals and Smart Money.” This was largely in response to more economically diverse incoming classes — driven in part by an expanding Colgate Commitment and partnerships with organizations such as Questbridge — and students’ growing recognition of wealth disparities on campus. However, I am the first to admit that the SGA is not operating at its fullest capacity. Initiatives and policies, such as “Free Meals and Smart Money,” should be the norm, not the exception. 

More could be done, however, if the aforementioned opinions were channeled into the SGA. Senators, cabinet members and leadership are able to advocate for your wants directly to the administration. Many of them sit on the University’s Governance Boards, which meet multiple times an academic year to discuss tangible changes to policy; all of them are able to either initiate projects or author legislation. This is precisely the aim of the SGA, yet, the first inclination of students is to go to anonymous forums or private conversations — essentially, everywhere but the SGA. 

So it is thus that I write this, the first of what I hope to be many notes penned directly from the SGA’s non-existent office to you. For too long, the SGA has been perceived as the problem, not the solution. Your peers, serving as senators, cabinet members and in leadership, are empowered to enter into dialogue with the administration and change this campus. All they need — and what, in my opinion, they seem to want — are your opinions. 

Student governance is a right this body fought for nearly 200 years ago when the “Students’ Association” was created. Now, more than ever, we need to renew our faith in that principle by trusting one another and crafting the experience that we want to see together. That starts with the SGA. 

More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Colgate Maroon-News Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *