SGA thriving despite COVID-19 challenges
By Patrick Brady
It’s a Tuesday night. Students trickle in and take their seats in the Alumni Room.
They’re chatty, yet content and certainly eager to begin. Without a moment’s notice, the president calls the senate to session and all conversation abruptly dies down.
They are ready to begin.
Like many student organizations, SGA has seen a decline of members since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Nevertheless, they continue to advocate for the student body and address their concerns.
President McKenzie Ward, a junior double major in history and English, said the role of SGA president is to lead the members while also being a voice for the student body. “I am responsible for presenting the views of the Framingham State student body to the University administration,” she said.
Ward said she decided to join SGA to “uplift the student voices.
“I know that students have concerns about FSU, but I hear so many of them feeling like they have no one to speak for them and that no one will listen,” Ward said.
“As students, our voices matter because without students, universities wouldn’t exist,” she added.
The biggest challenge of her role is recruiting students to join SGA, she said.
She said students should attend different organization meetings until they find one that they’re passionate about.
“Take advantage of any opportunity you have while you are in college because while joining an organization is fun, it also looks amazing on your resumé,” Ward said. “Being a member of an organization has taught me soft skills like time management, communication skills, and conflict resolution.
“While hard skills are extremely important, employers want to know that their employees interact with others well,” she added.
Sara Gallegos, SGA advisor, said she meets with the president and treasurer regularly. Furthermore, she attends all of the meetings and helps guide students who don’t understand certain “parliamentary” procedures.
She said she also answers students’ questions about SGA’s bylaws and constitution.
Gallegos said she hopes SGA members consider themselves “advocates” for Framingham State’s student body and are able to openly voice their concerns to the administration and staff. “They go to lots of different committee meetings where they need student representation.
“Then, they come back and present that to the rest of SGA,” she added.
She hopes students gain different leadership skills by working with others, she said.
Gallegos said what she likes most about being an SGA advisor is seeing her students grow over time and achieve their yearly goals.
“As you go along, you take on a little bit more leadership,” she said.
Outreach and Events Coordinator Emily Rosenberg, a sophomore political science major, said she is responsible for promoting events and providing outreach to the community, including creating SGA flyers and social media posts.
When she ran for student council in high school, she had to give a speech to her entire class, she said. Rosenberg recalled she was “shaking” throughout the duration of her speech.
“I was so nervous that I just couldn’t speak clearly,” she said. “And then I saw everybody else give the speech and I was like, ‘There’s absolutely no way I’m winning this election.’”
Although she lost, she said she realized student council members are more beneficial to the community than the class officers.
In her role, she said the most important events are the SGA retreat and the “All University Banquet,” which is going to be called the “Student Leadership Appreciation Thank You Banquet” this year. “We’re going to be giving out awards to student leaders ... who have specifically shown something outstanding.”
Members of clubs can nominate students for the awards, she said. Also, they’re going to be giving out the Benevolence Awards, which students have to apply for.
Rosenberg said she wishes SGA was more visible on campus. “I feel like students don’t really come to us when they do have problems, and the whole point of SGA is to help student issues be solved.
“I want to plan more events that are about awareness and stepping outside of your comfort zone to do things that aren’t necessarily fun,” she added.
She said she advises students not to become overwhelmed when joining a club. But if students are willing to put in the time and effort, it’s very rewarding.
“Don’t join too many clubs at once and don’t try and be the top e-Board member immediately,” she said. “Just have fun.”
Senator Raffi Elkhoury, a sophomore biology major, said he decided to join SGA because he believed it was a good way to get involved and meet new people.
He said he wants to represent his “peers” by making “informed decisions” that will beneXt the student body. Moreover, he enjoys the “sense of community” and how everybody on SGA is trying to make a difference.
“I really like the ideas that we generate on SGA and a lot of the things that we talk about,” Elkhoury said. “We need more students who are interested in getting involved.
“College is what you make of it and if you want to get involved, I think that’s really good and it will serve you well,” he added. “It’s important to try new things – especially at this time in our lives as college students.”
Senator Mark Haskell, a junior international business major, said the purpose of being a senator is to represent the community and their needs, concerns, and ideas.
Haskell said he joined SGA to make a difference and make “long-lasting changes” that would benefit the Framingham State University community.
“The advice I have for students who are starting a club is to have a timeline for activities and to be able to have costs prepared,” he said. “For students joining a club, join a club that suits your interests or join a club that is completely foreign to you and have fun.”
Secretary Sam Houle, a junior history major, said he keeps track of all the meeting minutes. “If people can’t make it to the meeting, they still need to know what’s happening on campus.”
He said he also manages and tracks senators’ open office hours.
Houle said he really appreciates how much he has improved his organizational skills through his work for SGA.
“We have a pretty strong connection with a lot of the administrators,” he said. “And that just makes me feel like, ‘Hey, I’m actually part of this community.’”
He said students should go out of their way to join a club and commit to it. He believes it is “ridiculously important” to be a part of the community because everyone goes home on weekends.
“Don’t be scared of the time commitment because you can always dial it back a little bit,” Houle said. “It’s a great thing to put on resumés, too.”
Vice President Emma Sullivan, a senior double major in early childhood education and psychology, said she is in charge of calling the meetings to order and facilitating the items on the agenda. In addition, she is the chair of the Student Affairs Committee.
She said the committee works on solving problems presented during Open Forum and “passion projects” they want to see happen on campus. “My passion project was hosting Drag Bingo this semester, where we hired Mayhem Miller from RuPaul’s ‘Drag Race’ to host a bingo night.”
One project Sullivian was involved in last spring was using SGA unallocated funds to add more water bottle refill stations around campus, she said.
Unallocated funds come from the student activities fee, she said.
Sullivan said she was friends with Abigail Salvucci, ’20, a former vice president of SGA, during her freshman year, and recalled she had told her about how much of a change she was able to make around campus.
“She inspired me to run as a senator and then again to run for vice president to take over for her after she graduated,” she said. “I am so grateful for her, as I would not have this wonderful community of people without her.”
She said she hopes to make campus a more welcoming place for everyone.
“My advice for students starting or joining a club is to do it,” Sullivan said. “Stepping out of your comfort zone is always scary, but the community you build in these clubs is priceless and I wouldn’t trade my community for the world.”
[Editor’s Note: McKenzie Ward is Opinions Editor for The Gatepost. Emily Rosenberg is an Arts & Features Editor for The Gatepost. Mark Haskell is a Staff Writer for The Gatepost.]