This semester, Muhlenberg’s Student Government Association (SGA) is changing the way it interacts with clubs and organizations on campus through representative ‘constituencies’. SGA president Karlee Makely, ‘19, has spearheaded the organization of the new representational structure in the pursuit of creating stronger relationships between students and their student government.
“In the past SGA functioned as an elected president and 22 representatives,” Makely explains. “This remains true and SGA elections will remain as they have been traditionally.”
However, Makely recognized that many students do not know or understand SGA’s role on campus, and these worries led her to seek these new changes.
“We are aware [that] the average student was completely unaware of what SGA does and does not do,” says Makely. “Students and organizations solely interacted with us to obtain their yearly funds. The purpose of SGA is to represent students in voicing their concerns, promote student interests and advocate for student life in and out of the academic classroom. The current assembly became frustrated [that] we could not build better relationships with the students and ultimately worried we were not accurately representing them.”
SGA’s new organization involves assigning elected members to a specific group of Muhlenberg clubs and organizations, instead of simply representing the student body as a whole.
“After a lot of discussion, we proposed that SGA representatives, in addition to serving the entirety of the school, would attend to a specific ‘constituency’,” says Makley. “It is now structured more like our elected government legislators, but instead of serving a geographical demographic, representatives will serve several organizations in a similar niche. Our representatives will tend to the specific needs, concerns and overall goals of their respective students while keeping consistent with the greater goals of Muhlenberg’s student government.”
Examples of ‘constituency’ groups include Residence Life, Multicultural Life, Academic Clubs, Performance Groups, Religious Life, Community Engagement and Social/Political Organizations. SGA representatives are assigned their group through the process of ranking their top five choices.
Considering the diverse interests and changing levels of students’ club attendance, SGA has planned to adjust the groupings each year depending on levels of student involvement.
“The amount of groups and representatives assigned to each ‘constituency’ is to be assessed yearly as membership fluctuates,” explains Makely. “For instance, religious life only consists of four organizations. Hillel alone makes up for a huge percent of our campus community. On the other hand, the academic constituency consists of around eighteen clubs because participation is much lower.”
Although Makely worries about the current student body’s communications with SGA, she expressed confidence that the new changes can continue to improve involvement in the organization’s proceedings and decision-making.
“Overall, in the future, we are hoping the students are engaging with SGA more,” says Makely. “In a perfect world, I would have loved to take this proposal further and make it so that students get to vote for which representative represents each specific constituency. However, right now the student population is just not invested enough in our weekly meetings or traditional elections. Unfortunately, I graduate in May and will not be around to see this, but I am confident we are taking the right steps to get there.”
The benefits of the new ‘constituencies’ can already be seen in the forging of more meaningful connections between students, their SGA representatives and college administrators.
“Ideally, we are hoping our representatives will form more personal relationships with these groups and SGA will become more approachable and greater utilized on campus,” says Makely.