The pillars of Student Government Association: an interview with SGA President Martin Barnard

SGA is “the voice of the students” at Cleveland State University.

Student Government Association President Martin Barnard. Photo courtesy of Martin Barnard

Martin Barnard, President of the Student Government Association, opened up about what his organization is responsible for and how it impacts student life at Cleveland State University.

For many students at CSU, SGA is a mystery. With a primarily technologically informed generation making up most of the student body, knowledge of government can often be lacking.

This is because many CSU students, who look to social media platforms and administrative emails for most of their campus news, receive limited updates about the goals and pillars in which SGA wishes to push.

“Student government is the voice of the students,” Barnard said with confidence. “We are the representatives who were elected in the spring to represent student needs. We represent their concerns and make sure that we’re finding solutions. We work with administration, faculty, and some of our other organizations on those solutions.”

In breaking down SGA’s levels of officials, Barnard described the potential powers granted to the elected group.

“The senate portion of SGA has the power to write resolutions,” Barnard said. He continued, “which basically, in layman’s terms, is really just a recommendation to the faculty senate. So you could write a resolution on parking and say ‘hey parking is really crazy on-campus, we think this is something we should address’, send it to the faculty, they review it, and then it can go to state legislation. So it’s a great way to get some changes done in terms of policy to make future experiences a lot better.”

With about 20 members currently, each representative plays a role in developing these resolutions. However, according to the president, SGA is still looking to recruit a couple of senators.

When asked about the relationships that SGA members keep with the administrative team, Barnard mentioned a few different ways in which the two groups stay in touch.

“Well, it really starts with that key word,” Barnard stated. “We start with creating these relationships. So it could be just a casual Zoom call or maybe a quick thing of a bunch. Every chance to spend time getting to know President Sands, the provost, or the deans could be important.”

Brainstorming solutions and surveying students, as Barnard explained, are the two most important ways to dissect helpful information and apply it for the greater good of the student body.

If students are to wonder how often the resolutions succeed, Barnard shared a clear answer in describing that it usually depends on two things.

“One, it depends where the idea originates from, and then the second part is who is backing it.”

As the SGA looks to expand their influence on committees outside of faculty senate meetings, Barnard hopes that their impact can be greater on academic affairs and the COVID-19 response protocol.