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SGA increases outreach, accessibility through Joint Board

SGA Senators voted this past Wednesday to change the name of Joint Board—the weekly meeting of SGA Senators and Cabinet members—to Campus Council.  Senators approved the name-change by a vote of 11-3, with two abstentions.  The measure, however is still pending final approval.

As pointed out by Senator Sam Mulopulos ’14 at the Joint Board meeting, changing Joint Board’s name would require altering the SGA Constitution which would then necessitate that the measure be approved by a two-thirds majority of a student vote (with a minimum of 60% of students voting) and by President Kington.

SGA Reform Committee initially suggested changing the name of “Joint Board” to “Campus Council” to make it more accessible to students.

“’Joint Board’ tells you nothing about what we’re doing, or what it is,” said SGA Administrative Coordinator Cynthia Amezcua ’14.  “A lot of students don’t know that they can go to Joint Board. We’re changing it to Campus Council, hopefully to help with that confusion, so that it’s very clear that this is for all campus to come together.“

Other changes to Joint Board include limiting the weekly meeting duration to 90 minutes.

“We will not let it run past 9:30 [p.m.],” said Amezcua. “We’re going to be very, very efficient because we want to be sensitive to the fact that we’re students, senators are students, and anyone in the audience will probably be students who don’t need to be up at a meeting for three hours. We want to try to make it as efficient as possible.”

Limiting Joint Board to 90 minute is a significant change from last year, when meetings could exceed three hours in duration.

“We’re going to make sure that all opinions are heard,” said SGA Presiding Officer Emma Lange ’16.  “But we’re not going to linger on, for example, how many Tiki torches a budget is going to allow for a party.”

In addition to limiting meeting duration, Joint Board meetings have been moved from 7:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Wednesdays in order to better accommodate in-season athletes. Meeting locations will also rotate across various campus locations instead of remaining in their previous location on the second floor of the JRC.

“We can go to the people, we can be in Main Hall, we can be in the Bear, hopefully we can go to North Campus somewhere,” said SGA President Thomas Neil ‘14. “Are those symbolic steps? Yes. But at the end of the day it’s a symbolic step that others weren’t willing to take.

Next Wednesday, senators will vote to approve a host of new requirements for their position. If approved, the changes would require senators to attend floor meetings and study breaks in addition to their committee assignments. Senators would also be required to host a weekly office hour for constituent concerns.

Senators will also vote on a proposal by Mulopulos to end the procedure of hearing Committee and Cabinet reports at Joint Board in order to focus on amending, debating, and approving proposals.

Because Joint Board meetings this year have only lasted 90 minutes, Joint Board members have been unable to vote on all seven reform proposals over the past two Joint Board meetings—largely because the majority of the meeting’s 90 minutes were devoted to hearing extracurricular budget proposals from students and discussing reports from SGA committees and Cabinet members.

“We had seven resolutions to talk about,” said Mulopulos. “Last year, two years ago, if we had had seven resolutions, we would have spent an hour and a half on committee reports and cabinet reports, and then spent like two more hours on every resolution. It’s good that we’re getting out early, but at the same time, we’re not talking about the big business.”

If Joint Board members can overcome the recent gridlock to vote on the proposals, their decisions could significantly impact the meeting’s structure. Proponents of the reform measures believe that the changes will increase efficiency and encourage student attendance.

“We really think if we’re able to get started, making it clear that we’re trying to clear it up,” said Lange. “[If we] make it more efficient and actually help the students that are putting their time into it, that’ll feed into it getting better throughout the year.”

Other SGA Cabinet members shared Lange’s sentiments.

“The impression that SGA is an insider’s job certainly isn’t helped when the primary source of outreach and interaction with students is perceived as being standoffish and inaccessible,” Neil said. “We can regain the trust of the student body and with that legitimacy, we can engage them in lots of conversations that they should be a part of.”

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