Butler Student Government Association office. Collegian file photo.
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Butler’s Student Government Association, SGA, started off the year with major changes to its structure. The biggest change is that the program board, the SGA affiliated group that focused on organizing campus wide events, has become a separate entity associated instead with the Department of Student Affairs. The program board will now be called the University Program Council and will focus on planning events on campus.
Along with general programming, diversity centered programming is moving away from SGA, with the SGA Diversity, Equity and Inclusion board becoming affiliated instead with the Efroymson Diversity Center for diversity, equity, and inclusion.
The plan for restructuring began when Keeling and Associates, a consulting firm specializing in higher education, presented the University with their report analyzing the effectiveness of the structure of SGA in the spring of 2019. This report, in conjunction with input from students and staff, led to a general consensus that significant structure changes were necessary.
Jesse Neader, director of the office of student activities, said the report emphasized the importance of advocacy over programming in student government. SGA had been in charge of events on campus like guest speakers, getting food trucks like Nicey Treats on campus and late night programming during the first six weeks of classes.
Neader said it was important to compare Butler’s SGA model to institutions of similar size and demographics.
“If you look across our peer institutions, most student governments don’t have programming entities, a lot of them have stand alone program councils,” Neader said. “Some of them still may be funded by the student government, but they’re not the same entity.”
Neader said separating programming, which had a purpose very different from SGA, out of SGA so it could be its own entity was best for both SGA, campus programming and student life in general.
Will Gigerich, student body president and senior criminology major, also said that programming ended up distracting SGA from their main goal and would take up too much of SGA members’ time and energy.
“Basically everyone wanted their hand in programming, trying to control what programming we’re doing, and that became problematic because we ended up focusing a lot of our time on those issues rather than really advocating for the student experience, which is what we’re here for,” Gigerich said.
Although diversity programming is now associated with the Diversity Center instead of SGA, Cade Chezem, junior biochemistry major and SGA Senate Speaker, said having diverse voices and points of view is still important to SGA.
For the first time, student senators will be required to take part in diversity training this year.
“We need to make sure that we are representing all voices on campus,” Chezem said. “And part of that is in creating an inclusive environment for students to come and express concerns, to know how to gather information from diverse students. We in the past have not focused on that, and I think that’s really where we’ve lacked, that’s one of my top priorities.”
Neader also stressed the importance of diversity across the entire university and in SGA. He
said moving that programming over to the Diversity Center will allow the Diversity Program Council more autonomy and more focused advising. Neader said it was important that content experts from each group’s specific focus advised the group as a whole.
“[Diversity Program Council] really needs to be advised by someone who has expertise in planning diverse programs or a background in diversity in education,” said Neader.
Both Chezem and Gigerich said advocacy is at the heart of the structural change. Gigerich noted the shift has allowed SGA to focus more on implementing projects that better the overall student experience such as adding flashing street signs to protect pedestrian safety and working with Butler’s Bon Appetit to introduce eco-friendly to-go meal containers.
Chezem said SGA is getting back to its original focus: using their positive relationship with university administration to improve the lives of students.
“We are really trying to get back to grassroots advocacy, grassroots government, making sure we are that bridge between the student body and the university,” Chezem said.