On Nov. 18, the SA Senate convened to discuss their new initiative to bring the senate closer to the groups it funds.
The new program is called the Group Advocacy System. It gives a major new role to the senate.
“The goal of the Group Advocacy System is to guarantee that every group funded by the SA gets equal attention from the senate,” Take Five Scholar and Speaker of the Senate Ashley Conner said. “Over the years, we have been neglecting our main mission as a senate, which is to work on behalf of the Students’ Association and specifically for SA groups.
“Our aim is to give each group access to a senator,” Conner said.
There are 11 groups composed of two senators — one elected in the fall and one in the spring. The groups are responsible for approximately four different SA funded organizations. At least once a month, a senator will go to each organization’s meetings.
“The senator’s role is to essentially help groups work as best as they can,” Conner said. “Hopefully this effort will be well received.”
Senator, Policy Committee Chair and sophomore Lucas McCarthy said that he was proud that the Group Advocacy System was starting, because it will be valuable.
While at meetings for SA groups, senators will observe the general flow and effectiveness of the meeting, evaluate recent events and activities, verify the active membership in the organization, and assess budgetary needs.
“This advocacy system is essential. Before, the Students’ Association only made budget decisions,” SA Senator and sophomore Mubarek Said said. “Now we can make programming and budget decisions together to allow for more effective future planning.”
Conner said that the program has two main purposes. “The first hope is that this interaction will keep the senate informed about what is going on within the SA so that we are better prepared to make decisions that affect groups including by-law changes and budgeting,” Conner said. “The second hope is that it will give groups two contacts within the senate.”
She is hopeful that the new program will be a success. “The system is meant to bridge the gap that has arisen between the government and its responsibilities to its constituents, and I am confident that, assuming everyone does their part, it will work beautifully,” Conner said.
The groups are composed of organizations of similar natures. For example, URTV, WRUR, Hartnett Gallery and Cinema Group are all listed together.
As of now, only groups who have a budget from the SA are included in the program. “We wanted to start off with a small amount [of groups] so as not to overburden the system,” junior Senator Lucas McCarthy said.
“I think the Group Advocacy System is a good step toward better communication between student organizations and the senate,” Campus Activities Board Administrative Chairperson Jason Smith said.
Smith said he believes it is important for the senate to have first-hand knowledge of SA groups and their programs so that group funding decisions by the Students’ Association Appropriations Committee will be informed. He also believes it will help inform university administrators as to how the student activities fee is being used.
Smith believes the new program will increase awareness of smaller groups that are less visible on campus. “Because some of the smaller organizations tend to attract less attention, many people would assume that the organization is doing nothing, when that is simply not true,” he said.
He believes the program has the potential to provide a way for smaller groups to get funding, communicate with other groups or ask for facility improvements.
“If done properly, and continued through the years, the Group Advocacy System and the information it collects could prove extremely useful to students as well as the university administration,” Smith said.
Students also believe the new program will improve group organization and communication. “The SAAC does not always know what the clubs need [in terms of funding],” junior Craig Owsley said. “Now that senators will be at meetings, they can support the groups.”
Freshman and Radiance member Brittany Atkins agrees. “I think it is a good idea,” Atkins said. “It will help the senate understand the groups and their needs, like costumes for Radiance.”
“The program is necessary. If it works, it is good,” sophomore and Debate Union member Adam Kasowitz said. “Right now [the senate] does not do a good job appropriating funding appropriately.”
SA President Lonny Mallach agrees. “It is good that the senate will have more contact with the student organizations,” he said. “Hopefully they will interact well and build a productive relationship.”