Senate reform aims to increase competition
With election season coming up for Student Government Association, earning a position in the chambers is expected to be more competitive this year than in the past. A bill passed in the SGA assembly Nov. 13 SGA that shrank the total number of senators from 63 to 43, a 68 percent reduction. Academic and residentially based positions saw the largest reductions.
According to members of SGA, the goal in reducing the size of senate is to create a more efficient and effective student government body.
Under the new organization, academic senatorial positions still make up the majority of SGA. When coming up with the new structure, the task force used a system where every college was given two seats for the first 1,000 students and an additional seat for every additional 1,000 students. Seven academic seats were removed as a result of the system. First year senators were also reduced from five to two, and a transfer student position was created.
Whereas many seats have traditionally been assigned based on housing location, the task force eliminated these seats in favor of two positions reserved for members of the Residence Hall Association (RHA). RHA will hold separate elections to fill these seats. This moves issues related to on-campus housing more explicitly into the realm of RHA. Similarly, graduate student seats were reduced from nine to two and reserved for two representatives elected by the SGA.
Some of the most notable additions to senate are four Diversity Leadership Cabinet seats. DLC currently serves as a committee.
It focuses on discussing and solving diversity issues across campus, but it currently has no legislative power in Senate. With the addition of these seats, the task force hoped to create more discussion about diversity issues in the weekly SGA meetings.
“The biggest difference that I can see [between SLU and peer institutions] is the fact that we have BSA and DLC senate seats,” she said. “Within all of the universities we researched, none of them had anything like these seats. That is something that we are all proud of!”
The voting process won’t change in any drastic way for students, but a reduced number of seats is likely to result in a more competitive election this semester than in years past.
“I am hopeful that the reduced number of seats in this election will generate more competition between candidates,” Election Commissioner Beth Alberty said. “In the past, seats for many constituencies were often uncontested. If the seats are contested in this election cycle, students will have an incentive to engage with and learn about the campaign platforms their potential student representatives.”
The deadline for candidate applications is Feb. 6 at 5:00 p.m. and elections day is set for Feb. 25.
Restructuring SGA is not a new topic of discussion in the chambers, but this is the first time legislation has been passed. The idea of making changes to senate’s format has been talked about for years.
The relatively unusual size of SLU’s student government has been cited as a source of issues with productivity. There have also been multiple conversations in past years concerning the desire of minority groups for more influence in senate.
Sean Worley, former VP of Diversity and Social Justice, started an election reform task force last year to get the idea moving towards action.
“We came up with ideas [last year] but we did not feel that the time allowed for us to make changes to the structure,” Knezetic said.
Reform efforts will continue through the spring semester as SGA works to improve their committee output.
“This semester, we will address the issue regarding the number of committees currently in SGA. Right now, there is not enough collaboration between each committee,” Sharma said. “With a smaller Senate and purposeful committees, I look forward to a productive SGA for future SLU students.”