SGA brings students’ needs to the forefront this school year

Kaitlin Englund

Life and Entertainment editor

A new school year is underway and, the University of West Florida Student Government Association is moving forward armed with fresh ideas and goals, with a strong emphasis on student involvement.

SGA President Daniel McBurney said this semester is about accomplishing some of the goals laid out in the McBurney/Hebert 2015 spring campaign platform.

One of the biggest initiatives of the campaign platform includes promoting the “It’s On Us” campaign. This is a nationwide movement to promote awareness and prevention of sexual assault on college campuses. Launched by the White House in September 2014, “It’s On Us” is approaching its one-year anniversary. The SGA will host an anniversary event on Sept. 21 in the University Commons to support the initiative.

McBurney said the event will be an opportunity for students to learn more about the campaign and take the pledge.

“The more students can get involved with it and really take it on, the more the campus culture is going to change,” McBurney said.

This semester, in addition to bolstering support for the “It’s On Us” campaign, the SGA wants to focus on campus diversity and student organizations.

The SGA Director of Student Life, Kali Richardson, has been working with the Office of Equity, Diversity and International Affairs, as well as student organizations, to promote various diversity months such as September’s National Hispanic Heritage Month.

“We really want to get the student organizations involved so that we can create that diverse culture on our campus,” McBurney said. “And not only show off those diversities, but have the student organizations get involved with it and have SGA be that catalyst for involvement.”

McBurney said the SGA also wants to see more collaboration between student organizations to create a better atmosphere for student involvement. He said they have seen that cooperation come to fruition through the Campus Collaboration Board. The board was created to set strategic plans for student involvement at UWF, as well as create a master calendar of events for all student organizations to utilize. The Campus Collaboration Board unanimously passed its first reading at Friday’s senate meeting and will have its second reading on Sept. 25.

“The Campus Collaboration Board will be comprised of some of the specific representatives from bigger demographics of student organizations,” McBurney said.

The board will be chaired by SGA Vice President Jake Hebert and will include representatives from the SGA, the Student Athlete Advisory Council, the Inter-Fraternal Programming Board, Campus Activity Board, Homecoming, and other student representatives.

McBurney says SGA is working to make the campus better for all students.

“We definitely plan on making sure the student voice is heard, and making sure while the decisions are being made on our campus, that they know exactly what the students want,” said McBurney. “Another big thing is, with these big changes and different things like that, I think it’s really important to keep the student body informed.”

To allow students a chance to voice their opinions, the SGA will bring back “Write-it-Out Wednesdays,” where students can share their opinions on various campus topics. Open to all students, “Write-it-Out Wednesdays” will be one Wednesday a month in the University Commons. The SGA will have whiteboards set up with different topics, and students can come by and write out their opinion on the topics, as well as any concerns they may have.

Students can also provide input by attending the weekly SGA meetings. All meetings are open to the public. Students can also find  senate meeting agendas, minutes, and passed legislation online.

Although the semester has just begun, the SGA already is facing challenges, especially with budget allocations. Students have expressed concerns over the eradication of the SGA-funded, free WEPA printer pages for students.

McBurney said the printing is just one of the campus services affected by recent deficits in the budget due to fluctuation in enrollment.

“When it came to the activity and service fee budget, the enrollment went down, so therefore our budget went into a deficit, and it took a lot of our reserve money,” said McBurney. “This year, we have our reserves solidly back up, and we want to make sure if we hit another one of those deficits,  we would be able to cover it without having to cut money from big departments or organizations on campus … We’ve just got to make sure our bases are covered so students can get the fundamental, basic amenities they enjoy on campus, like the gym and the Commons.”

McBurney said other campus services have adjusted as well. Recreation has scaled back employment, as well as shortened operating hours at the gym to save money, and the theatre department cannot perform as many shows as in previous years.