EmbarkUGA earns high marks for enthusiasm, but some behind-the-scenes legwork will be required to make good on its promises as the Student Government Association executive branch moves into its second semester.
“We started with a very ambitious agenda, and we have been forced to deal with things like ticketing policy, hate speech, naming the new [Online Access to Student Information System] — things we were very interested in and would never neglect, but they have nevertheless diverted energy away from things we hoped to do,” said SGA President Austin Laufersweiler.
He said long-term initiatives, such as establishing a women’s center on campus, are valuable, even if the results are not immediately tangible.
“I think students recognize that we’re only here for four years, and a lot of our programs require many more years of work,” he said. “We see an importance in setting our successors up for success to carry on the charge.”
A–Platform point accomplished
B–Platform point in progress
C–Platform point attempted but not accomplished
D–Platform point attempted and abandoned
F–Platform point not attempted
Athletic Incentive Point System: D
The beginning of the SGA term coincided with a false rumor that SGA decided to not grant “Double Dawgs” football tickets, which sparked a frustration. Who actually spearheaded the policy remains unknown.
Administrators were reluctant to change ticketing policy mid-semester. SGA passed a resolution asking the administration to take up the issue, punting a more comprehensive solution until the Athletic Association Board meets in February.
“We would have loved to have seen more done to reconcile the challenges those 'Double Dawgs' faced, but that sort of [midseason] change could set a precedent that would be harmful in the long run,” Laufersweiler said.
Chief of Staff Alex Moosariparambil will roll out the alternative ticketing policy, which creates a separate pool of tickets for graduate students, in February. But that solution is too little, too late for the 1,680 “Double Dawgs” who did not receive football tickets, and particularly for those graduating.
Restructuring SGA: A
The new policy board served as the think-tank for committees and as a go-between for SGA senators and campus activists. The executive staff divided into categories by implementation method, rather than issue area, which allowed for a more effective division of labor, Laufersweiler said.
Greyson Clark, director of the policy board, said part of the motivation was creating a structure that endures even as executives change.
As a result, Laufersweiler said business has run more smoothly this year.
Mutual Empowerment and Student Engagement: B
This set of executives introduced the “open forum,” 30 minutes dedicated at the beginning of each meeting for students to voice their concerns and ideas.
Still SGA continues to struggle with its reputation for exclusivity.
“It seems like everyone involved in SGA has been involved for a while, from the time they were freshman,” said Essence Franklin, a junior from Augusta majoring in international affairs. “Or they have friends or family involved in SGA who let them know what’s going on and ‘pass the torch,’ so to speak.”
New OASIS: A
OASIS, the online “portal” connecting students to transcript requests, financial aid statements and course schedules, received a semester-long makeover this fall. Enterprise Information Technology Services (EITS) announced three finalists for the new name of the revamped version of OASIS on Nov. 18 through Twitter — Athena, Compass and EmBark.
SGA narrowed more than 300 student submissions down to a list of 30, said Tracy Giese, public relations coordinator for the University of Georgia vice president for instruction.
“We narrowed down the whole list to three,” said Vice President Uzma Chowdhury, including “Fetch” and “DawgCentral.” Administrators with EITS “wanted something more professional,” and substituted their favorites as the finalists, she said.
Class Withdrawal Options: C
SGA has not pushed for a more flexible policy on withdrawals with the University Council, according to meeting minutes.
Laufersweiler said SGA is working to build a broad base of support in the administration, faculty and staff in pursuit of this “significant change.”
SGA representatives on the University Council persuaded administrators to not cut the drop/add period during maymester and summer session to one day last week. The formality of the University Council meetings usually discourages students from speaking up, said School of Social Work Senator Tyler Baker.
Business Professional Lending Closet, Bike Rental Program, Campus Safety Mobile App: B
The executives’ proposed student services projects that are in the works, according to Director of Student Services Ellen Gagnet at a recent SGA senate meeting. Gagnet is working on a proposal to acquire space in Memorial Hall for a lending closet for students in need of professional clothing for interviews.
“It’s a matter of putting together a proposal and talking with faculty and staff who have already committed to donating clothes,” Chowdhury said.
SGA is working with the Office of Sustainability, Georgia Bikes and BikeAthens to expand the bike rental program into the city of Athens.
A “task force” headed up by Student Services Policy Board member Mariana Satterly is still nailing down the right software for the campus safety mobile app, which would alert campus police by pressing down a button. Satterly has consulted UGA Police Chief Jimmy Williamson on the effort.