North Texas Daily

Examining the branches of student government

Examining the branches of student government

Examining the branches of student government
September 08
23:59 2014

By Rhiannon Saegert/Senior Staff Writer & Joshua Knopp/News Editor

UNT’s Student Government Association is looking to get students more involved in their own representation.

Vice president and event and sport management sophomore Kamaeron Willard said SGA’s made it a goal to become a more recognized presence on campus by rebranding and increasing visibility.

“Over the past three years, there’s been a 2 percent decrease every single election for the student body president, as well as the senate,” Willard said. “That kind of indicates the decrease of relevance of the organization.”

SGA has a budget of $174,000. It also allocates the Raupe Travel Grant fund, set aside to help students travel to conferences, and the Eagle’s Nest fund, which helps fund student organizations’ programming.

The president, general, choral and instrumental music junior Troy Elliott, either co-chairs the Fine Arts series committee and the Distinguished Lecture series, or appoints co-chairs. The Fine Arts series committee has a $50,000-to-$60,000 budget to bring guests to campus.  The Distinguished Lecture series committee has a $180,000 budget. The SGA budget, travel grant, Eagle’s Nest Fund and both series’ budgets are drawn from student service fees.

The president also serves on the student service fee committee, which allocates the student service funds for the next fiscal year. Additionally, he is often asked to represent students in various committees over the course of the year.

“This is really important, because we are basically the steward of student service money because we’re making sure that it’s being spent in a way that will provide dividends to the student population,” Elliott said. “The student body president also has six appointments to that committee.”

SGA consists of an executive, legislative and judicial branch, an intern program and an election board.

“A lot of the ways we help kind of go back to how the branches work,” Elliott said. “Executive branch-wise, if there’s a student issue that we can handle, a lot of that is meeting with administration face-to-face.”

The executive branch consists of the president, the vice president and six executive positions appointed by the president and approved by the senate.

The Senate contains 45 seats, divided by individual college. The number of senators per college is population-based and re-evaluated every year in the spring. The college of arts and sciences’ 14 senators is currently the most.

To become a senator, a student must either be appointed in the spring election or gather enough signatures from the college they wish to represent and be approved. Students need at least 15 UNT credit hours to become a senator, but freshmen looking to get more involved can join standing committees. Transfer students who have had some leadership experience can be considered for SGA positions.

SGA has had difficulty filling up the senate in the past, which has led to an inability to vote on referendums, which require two thirds of the senate to vote on – even if there are less than 30 senators present. Last year, the association ground to a complete halt when it could not muster enough voting members to vote in a referendum to change this requirement to two thirds of present senators. The senate currently has 25 seats filled, but 10 more are due to be appointed at the next meeting.

Referendums are large, externally aimed pieces of legislation. Then, they often go to a student vote. Regular, internally aimed bills require a simple majority.

“When it comes to things like getting new buildings, you always need to pass a referendum,” Elliott said. “A referendum is something that, if it passes by student vote, we push up to the administration and they push forward to the board of regents on the behalf of that student vote.”

The judicial branch consists of seven Supreme Court justices and an advocate general. The Supreme Court is in charge of the SGA constitution and bylaws. The advocate general represents the association if a student feels SGA has violated the constitution.

The election board is a removed part of SGA in charge of holding elections. The board is appointed by the SGA president and approved by the student senate.

“They don’t work with SGA because they put on elections, so it’s the best way to make sure it’s not partisan,” Elliott said.

The director of leadership and development handles SGA’s freshman intern program, which is part of the executive branch. Twelve of last year’s 25 freshman interns became senators.

“Those 30 freshmen interns serve the entire year and they pretty much learn all of the functions of the association in the hopes that they go out after the fact and don’t just go into SGA, but spread leadership across the campus,” Elliott said. “It’s basically about leadership development and working with the Student Government Association.”

With the Union out of operation, the SGA has set up office in the back of the student lounge in Stovall Hall.

“Any and all student issues, we can address here,” SGA director of communications Aaron Presley said. “We are an organization first and foremost and also a department. So we do our due diligence when students bring any issue, regarding anything, to us.”

SGA meetings are open to all students and take place Wednesdays at 5:15 pm in the Business Leadership Building, room 180.

Featured Image: Student Government Association President Troy Elliott, left, discusses future affairs with the association’s Vice President Kam Willard. The two work together to coordinate various ways for North Texas students to get involved. Photo by Benjamin Regalado – Staff Photographer

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