Students’ Association President and senior Lonny Mallach and his cabinet recently have taken the initiative to discuss potential changes to several aspects of the SA government in an effort to make it a more effective and functional government.
“We are beginning a renewed push for reform within the SA government,” Mallach said. “Right now we are discussing a wide array of possible improvements. However, the breadth of the changes has yet to be determined.”
Thus far, some of the changes for reforming the government include — changing the way the executive branch and the legislative branch interact, refining appropriations to SA groups, and defining the role of the SA government on campus. In that definition, it is important to focus on what the government hopes to accomplish and how it can best interact with student groups and the university.
There are several fundamental aspects of the government which will immediately affect its effectiveness.
“Strong communication, clear and understandable roles, visible results or lack of results, and a body that is representative of the students and their interests are all imperative characteristics of a student government,” Mallach said.
Reforming the government was purely a student initiative, but the university administration is supportive. “I believe that UR students deserve a student government that represents their interests well and one with the capacity to respond to emerging interests and needs,” Dean of Students Jody Asbury said. “This is a dynamic and changing population and student government, like administrative offices, need to be able to respond to change.”
“I realize that there has been discussion about using a different form of government for some time,” Asbury said. “While I worry that it is coming late in the semester and therefore may be too rushed, this seems like a very important discussion to have. It seems critical to me that any discussion of this nature also be broad and involve many people. Finding a way of setting some common goals and priorities is important to good planning and it will be important to this form as well.”
The reasons for the changes are straightforward. “The government is not functioning as well as it could and should,” Mallach said. “Right now there are too many internal problems affecting the government’s success.”
“The purpose of any such changes would be to increase the communication between student groups with similar goals, and to help these student groups to have an easier time in the final budgeting process,” SA Policy Committee Chair and junior Lucas McCarthy said.
“Also, with these minor structural changes we hope to eliminate any unnecessary overlapbetween the executive and legislative branches of our SA Government by giving a more specific focus to the senate and the president and his cabinet.”
Last April there was a referendum that attempted to reform the government — however it narrowly failed to be approved and adopted.
“It was a tough precedent that the student government was working against,” Director of Wilson Commons and Student Activities Anne-Marie Algier said.”There was a lot of apathy, which is a sign of problems with the government.” Now Algier is certain that changes will be successful,
“I’m happy that the process of reform is being revisited. For a few years students have acknowledged that there are structural problems with the government. Now I am confident that students and leadership will be able to make the government better and more effective.”
Right now there is a lot of discussion about what the changes should entail. In the near future there will be discussions with the Senate, student organizations, and the student body at-large.
When the proposed changes are concrete they may require revising the SA Constitution and or by-laws.
There is an open meeting for all who are interested on March 22 in the Friel Lounge.
Based on initial ideas, students are hopeful that the changes will make the SA government a more effective body. “I think that it’s a great idea to restructure and improve the SA government,” freshman Keith Gorgos said.
“Now, if I had a problem, I wouldn’t know where, in the government, to go to get it addressed.”
Perhaps the paramount question to ask while considering possible improvements to the SA government is, “How can we do better?” according to Mallach.
Keesing can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.