By Philipp Corfman
The core function of the Student Government Association (SGA) is to be the voice of the students and to advocate for their issues to the administration. With the retirement of President Ronald M. Berkman, advocating for the students will be especially important in the year to come.
Samia Shaheen is the newly elected incoming president of SGA and head of the We the Students executive board slate. She is also fully aware of the challenges in this upcoming year.
“With the transition from President Berkman to President Sands, it’s imperative that we continue to advocate for the rights of students, address their concerns and work to bring positive results to the pressing issues that we’re confronted with,” Shaheen said.
Shaheen notes how voices of students can be lost in periods of transition. She said that she really wants to avoid that in the upcoming year by acting on behalf of the students.
“We want to move forward and act as the liaison between the student body and the administration as best as we can because their voices need to be heard,” Shaheen said.
However, in order for students’ voices to be heard through SGA, they need to understand and communicate with the group. In many cases, even the most engaged students have minimal knowledge of SGA’s purpose, and many feel that the group has not yet done enough to promote accessibility to the students and organizations they were elected to serve.
Katie Gies is the vice president of Phi Sigma Pi, a prominent honors fraternity, but despite her active engagement in a major student organization and receiving funding from SGA, she says that she has limited knowledge of what SGA actually does.
“I don’t know anything about them. We’ve only worked with SGA once. We asked for money, and they gave it to us.” Gies said.
Melinda Glass, treasurer of the Cleveland State Student Music Therapists, emphasized that this lack of understanding goes both ways. While she appreciates SGA, she finds it frustrating to work with.
“It can be very difficult as a small organization to understand how to get funding and what they’re looking for in student [organizations] who ask for funding,” Glass said.
Glass explains that her issues with SGA involve outdated information on OrgSync as well as difficulty getting a hold of the treasurer when they don’t know where he has his office hours listed.
Her frustrations reflect a lack of accessibility that many students feel impedes their ability to use SGA as a resource and as a mouthpiece for their concerns to the administration.
Beyond requesting funding, many students say that they think of SGA as a one time per year thing, but Shaheen wants to tackle this disconnect in the upcoming year.
“It’s a long-standing issue that all universities have encountered,” Shaheen said. “I hope to increase the transparency, to make ourselves known on campus and to serve as a resource to students.”
She also emphasizes the specific issues and projects that she and the rest of SGA will be tackling this upcoming year. These include a campus vote project, a food recovery initiative, campus safety, health and wellness internships, diversity, working with the LGBT community, working with Veteran’s affairs, parking and dining, among more.
Shaheen said that We the Students will make it a top priority to ensure that, in the pivotal year to come, student interests are not forgotten by the transitioning administrations.
“We’re not only their representatives,” Shaheen said. “But their friends above all.”