Evan Englander, SA President
Each year around this time, the Student Association leadership reviews its constitution to see what we can do to help better the student experience at SUNY Oneonta. Nothing changes in some years, but in other years, like this one, we choose to make some major changes that will not only give the student body a better experience, but will also give them more of a voice on issues that matter to them. This year we have made four major changes; we created the Student Association Activities Council, established new standards for those running for Executive Board, we formed the SA Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and raised our GPA standards for those running for any office. In the following column, I will discuss these changes and how they will affect the affairs of the Student Association and, of course, the students.
Student Association Activities Council (SAAC)
In collaboration with the College Union Activities Council, the SA has decided to absorb CUAC and recreate them as a standing committee of the Student Association. The sections of the SA Constitution that discuss this are almost equivalent to CUAC’s constitution, except for a few minor adjustments. As part of the agreement with CUAC, their members have chosen the name for the new committee, which will be the Student Association Activities Council (SAAC). The Activities Board (currently the CUAC Executive Board) will be working with the SA to advertise and promote events brought to you by the SA and SAAC.
The Board and Council will be chaired by the newly created SA Vice President of Activities. This change will give the student body as a whole the opportunity to vote for the person who will be making all of the big programming decisions with the help of their Board, and of course, Director of Campus Activities, Bill Harcleroad. The VP for Activities will be a member of the SA Executive Board and will act as a liaison between the Activities Council and the SA Senate.
In order to keep the same balance between the Executive and Legislative branches of our government, the Vice President of Internal Services position will be disbanded and its responsibilities redistributed between the Executive Vice President, who will now additionally deal with the buses, vans and scholarships, and the Vice President of Central Affairs, who will additionally supervise fundraising and inventory.
New Standards for Executive Board
Adding this new position brought with it the question of “What qualifies someone to be on the Executive Board of the SA?” They must be a Student Activity Fee paying member to be a part of anything SA related, but should there be more? We have decided that in order to run for President, Executive Vice President, Vice President of Finance and Vice President of Central Affairs, one must possess an understanding of how the SA functions, from the weekly Senate meetings to committee meetings to the day-to-day operations of the organization. In lieu of this decision, one must have served as an Executive Board member, Senator, Justice or SA Standing Committee member (which anyone can do) for one academic year prior to declaring their candidacy for one of those four positions on the Executive Board. An SA member may also choose to attend two-thirds of the Student Association Senate meetings for the academic year to meet eligibility.
Just as the other four positions on the Executive Board have candidacy requirements, so does the new Vice President of Activities. In order to be eligible to run for this office, one must have attended a programming conference or festival, which would include any National Association for Campus Activities event or any other organization of similar mission and character. An SA member may choose to attend two-thirds of the Student Association Activities Council meetings for the academic year to meet eligibility instead. We feel that these are reasonable stipulations that still allow for the democratic process to work, while at the same time making sure the people running for office are qualified to do the jobs they could potentially be elected to.
Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Due to recent events, the SA has decided to form the Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. After the Committee on Social Justice (CSJ) attended the Senate meeting on October 16th of last year to express its grievances, we began brainstorming as to how we as students could help to end and rectify the instances of racism and profiling in Oneonta. The college has already begun its work and we figured that there was no more time to waste.
In collaboration with the CSJ, we will be establishing this committee, whose main responsibilities will include working and hosting events with the College’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and any other Diversity initiatives to promote unity among the Oneonta community. The Committee will also arrange meetings with local law enforcement to discuss issues of bias against students based on race, sex, gender identity/expression, sexual orientation, religious orientation, physical or mental disability, migratory status, national origin, real and perceived age, ancestry, creed, political belief, arrest and/or conviction record, or any other criterion prohibited by federal, state or local law. Additionally, the Committee will act as a resource to any student who feels their rights have been violated either on campus or off. It will also publish and distribute literature regarding the rights of students including the Constitution of the United States of America and the SUNY Oneonta Student Code of Conduct.
It is our hope that this committee will become a staple in the college community and in the community at large.
New G.P.A. Standards for Office
Currently, to be an Executive Board member, Senator or Justice in the SA, you are required to have a 2.5, 2.25 and 2.5 cumulative G.P.A. respectively. Under the new constitution, the SA will require these elected officials to also be in good academic standing with the college. Under the current requirement, one could have a high cumulative G.P.A. and, once they become a Senator, could see their grades plummet and, even though they get a low semester G.P.A., they will still be eligible to hold their Senate seat. However, under the new guidelines, anyone placed on Academic Probation will be dismissed from their role in the Student Association. This small change was made to make sure that our student leaders are being students first and leaders second.
The Power of Change is In Your Hands
These changes passed in the SA Senate by a vote of 24, 0 voted nay and4 abstained, and will be put to a referendum, paper ballot vote in the SA Office (9 Hunt Union) on Thursday and Friday, February 16 and 17 from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., ending at 4:00 p.m. on Friday, February 17. We highly encourage you to read the exact wording that was sent to you in the broadcast email and let your voice be heard. If you have any questions, feel free to contact SA President Evan Englander at [email protected] or call the SA Office at (607) 436-2440.