by Craig Berger
SGA candidate applications for 2017-2018 are due on Monday, March 27th at 12:00 noon ET.
This is the first of a few items I'll post to provide some background information about the 20 available elected positions (President, Executive Vice President, Vice President for Student Organizations, Treasurer, 11 Senators, and 5 Finance Board Representatives). The candidate application can be found here.
The SGA Senate
Membership: The Senate’s members include 11 Senators elected by the student body. In addition, the Senate can add up to three nonvoting First Year Ambassadors each fall. Also, the President, Executive Vice President, Vice President for Student Organizations, Treasurer and SGA Advisor, as well as UMBC’s President and Vice President for Student Affairs, are ex-officio (nonvoting) members of the Senate.
The voting members elect a Speaker, who runs the weekly meetings and organizes the Senate’s work, and an Assistant Speaker, who helps the Speaker and organizes members’ participation on UMBC committees.Key Responsibilities:
- Communicating with the Student Body: More than any other branch in SGA, the Senate’s job is to listen to the voices of UMBC undergraduates and find new ways to respond to their needs, concerns and aspirations. Senators find and develop multiple avenues for connecting with students, sparking and collecting their ideas, and supporting them in their own projects to improve the UMBC experience.
- Initiating Action to Improve Students’ Experiences: The Senate is where many of SGA’s new initiatives are born: an incubator of ideas and plans to improve UMBC policies, programs and practices. Senators work together, both at the weekly meetings and in smaller groups throughout each week, to envision needed changes, develop practical plans, and coordinate the work of implementing them, involving and receiving support from Executive Branch officers as appropriate.
For example, the Senate could decide that what the student body needs is new dining options in The Commons. A team of Senators would work together, coordinating with the President, to determine how to pursue these new options (identifying key decision-makers, researching the history of the existing dining options, developing a plan for advocating changes, engaging and informing the student body), and work to make the change happen. If the Senate develops an initiative that requires steady, ongoing attention in subsequent years, the initiative may shift to the Executive Branch for implementation after the first year.
- Taking Positions/Considering Legislation: When SGA formally takes a position on an issue, such as a bill being considered by the state legislature, it does so in the form of legislation approved by a majority vote of the Senate (which can be vetoed by the President, subject to override by a 2/3 vote of the Senate). The Senate also has or shares responsibility for approving the annual budget, allocations of funds from SGA’s reserve account, and the appointment of certain SGA officers. In addition, the Senate manages a fund from which it can make allocations to SGA projects.
- Representing the Student Body: Senators represent all students on UMBC committees (consisting of staff, faculty and students) that establish campus policies and practices. Fulfilling this responsibility entails both attending and participating actively in committee meetings and communicating with other SGA members and the student body about what the committees are doing. (This responsibility is shared with the Executive Branch).
- Participating in SGA Initiatives and Activities: Senators work with members of the other branches of SGA to contribute to positive change on campus.
The Senate typically works most effectively when students outside of SGA are involved in its work from the early brainstorming stage through the end of an initiative’s implementation. Members of the UMBC administration and faculty are far more likely to take Senators and their ideas seriously when it is clear that many other students are involved and committed to the same goals. While the Senate sometimes can serve as a problem-solver and advocate on other students’ behalf, it strives to keep other students at the center, and may even play a secondary but crucial role as a supporter of other students’ initiatives.
Because its initiatives can yield new programs and services that require implementation year after year, the Senate must cultivate support and cooperative relationships within SGA, especially with the Executive Branch. Doing so diminishes the possibility that Senators’ good work will be abandoned at the end of their terms.