The Student Government Association has headed initiatives to take the All-In Campus Democracy Challenge to get more students involved in the voting process this election year. SGA, along with the Division of Student Affairs and the President’s office, has planned various events, such as debate watch parties, to encourage students to familiarize themselves with the voting process. SGA is going to use these events as on opportunity to endorse a website called TurboVote. TurboVote allows easy access for students to register to vote, apply for an absentee ballot, and receive text reminders of upcoming voting dates. They’re also planning on providing transportation for students to get to their polling place on the day of the election, Nov. 8. Other events include a mock presidential debate, an international student panel on outside perspectives of the presidential race, and an election night party. “Younger voters, the turnout has always been relatively lower than older voters,” said Dr. David Tushaus, co-professor of Election Law and Voting Practices: Protecting the Right to Vote, a course which emphasizes the history and importance of voting. Last election, 75% of MWSU students were registered to vote and 41% voted. The goal of the challenge is to register more students and raise campus voter turnout by an increase of 5%. “There are many issues that are involved from the local level to the national that people from this age group should care about.” Tushaus said. Brad Stanton, assistant director of external relations, seemed to share a similar opinion. “Of course, younger people being able to vote is huge because young people are at a point in their life where there are a lot of [political] decisions that affect them,” Stanton said. “Who you vote for could in turn, in the legislature, turn into a vote of whether or not Missouri Western gets a raise.” SGA is trying to remove the obstacles from the voting process and make voting less intimidating for student voters, especially younger voters. “People who have either never voted before or very minimally voted before are now moving to another locality,” Stanton said. “Young people don’t really have the tools to know what they’re supposed to do.” To clear up any confusion, if you’re a citizen of the United States over the age of 18, you can vote from anywhere, even outside the borders. “I was in India in 2012 and I voted,” Tushaus said. If you’re already registered, TurboVote can be used as a tool to make sure you don’t miss any deadlines and to check on your registered status. Tushaus mentioned a story in which a student thought they were registered, went to the polls on election day and found out they weren’t. “If you think you’re registered, it wouldn’t hurt to check,” Tushaus said.
Those walking through Blum Union this semester may notice a few changes to the student union. Over the summer the upper floor received a makeover that SGA and the Student Affairs Office hope will make it easier for students to access resources in that area. “We see students from this office all the time come upstairs and not know where to go,” said Shana Meyer, Vice President of Student Affairs. “It was barricades to involvement. People didn’t know about the services that we had, and we know that when students get involved and engaged on campus, they’re more likely to persist and be retained.” Renovations were made to the Center for Multicultural Education, Center for Student Involvement and International Student Services Offices in an effort to make each office more accessible and visible to students. The renovations include large storefront windows, new carpeting and new paint for the offices. To Ann Rahmat, Director of International Student Services, these changes provide a more private space for international students to seek advice and feel at home. “For us, we basically want to make it into a safe place for international students- make it where they really feel like it’s a home, where they can be comfortable,” Rahmat said. “[Students] have always been welcome, it’s just that we’d be giving them more space to be able to be more comfortable in that space.” This new space is being completely funded by Student Success Act dollars. The Student Success Act (SSA) is an act that charges students $25 to $75 per semester to maintain and improve the quality of university programs and services like the International Student Services. The renovations were approved by the committee presiding over SSA in April. A new memorandum of understanding for SSA was also approved in April, allowing the money to individually fund student services. “The committee is comprised of both faculty members and student members,” Meyer said. “They worked through a ton of different options for where the funding might go. Funding was originally allocated to the union a couple of year ago, but it was just a process that we really had to work through as far as ‘what are we going to use this funding as a whole for?’” The renovations for Blum ended up costing $196,164 out of a $440,000 budget. With full-time students paying $150 per year, it would take around 1,300 students to raise these funds within a year’s time. Whether or not that many students will benefit from the renovations they are funding is to be seen. Student body president Alec Guy thinks the money could have been used on a number of projects around campus and that this project was worth the cost. “I do think that it’s a good use of money,” Guy said. “In terms of other projects and things like that, we just recently changed SSA to go to different student services on campus and actually provide them with more funding. So I think there are plenty of uses for this money that would benefit students, and I think this is just one of the many that will have a great impact on students and improve Missouri Western.” Gillian Evans, SGA’s director of public relations, believes students deserve to have access to the services in Blum and believes these renovations will make that access easier. “We’re paying fees to have those services there, and nobody even knows about them,” Evans said. “I was one of these kids, where’s it’s kind of intimidating getting involved. You don’t really know how to or where to, and then you hear about all these services that are there and these offices that are there for students, but whenever you’re a student and you can’t really navigate where to go, it’s very frustrating.” Students and faculty members alike are hopeful that the renovations will be able to give more opportunities for students to get involved. “You can’t make people get involved, but you can certainly make it easier,” Evans said. While the choice to get involved on campus is ultimately up to the students, Guy believes SGA still has work to do to promote the new space before involvement increases. “I think it will be a lot on SGA’s shoulders, so to speak, to kind of get students to come upstairs and see the services that are up here,” Guy said. “So I think that the renovations themselves will help, but we also have to publicize it and kind of let students know that it’s been renovated.” According to Guy, SGA has not made any plans to publicize the renovations yet, but will be discussing options further into the semester.
As many students came back for their first day of classes on Monday, Missouri Western’s Student Government Association also came back for its first meeting of the 2016-2017 school year. The meeting, which occurred at 5:30 p.m. in Blum 220, was not the Guy/Samenus administration’s first SGA meeting, however. The new administration convened the last SGA meeting of the spring 2016 semester. The meeting covered a variety of topics during the meeting. SGA President Alec Guy said the meeting dealt with things that needed to be dealt with. “They’re kind of housekeeping legislation, so things that we needed to go through and address that hadn’t necessarily been before,” Guy said. Picking up a piece of legislation from last semester’s final meeting, SGA approved the Electronics Student Club, a group for electronics and technology majors to network. Aside from approving legislation, several pieces of legislation were introduced at Monday’s meeting. One proposal was to approve the SGA budget for this year, which includes an increase to the St. Joseph Transit Program which may be seeing rising costs in the coming years due to a new policy implemented by the city of St. Joseph. Another change in the SGA budget came with the addition of $6,500 for the year-long rental of the Student Suite at the renovated Spratt Stadium. SGA will use it first to view a home game, but then will award the suite out to other groups of students to use the room for the remainder of the year. Other pieces of legislation introduced would remove policies which have largely already been in replaced. For instance, after the previous administration of Ida Haefner revamped and revised the collection and use of student fee money collected under the Student Success Act (SSA), a bill introduced at Monday’s meeting would remove the old policy from the books. Another bill would remove SGA’s Scholarship Policy for its executive board as that policy has been replaced by a payroll system. Lastly, a bill would remove the Jacob Scott Award Procedure since other leadership and service awards have been established in its place as well. Executive Vice President Connor Samenus, who ran the meeting, said it went well. “I thought last night’s meeting went really well and a lot more effective than the first meeting -- of course, that comes with time. I thought the legislation went over really well and the senators were attentive.” President Guy felt likewise. “I think it went well,” Guy said. “There were definitely a few hiccups just because this is our first meeting and kind of getting back in the swing of things, but other than that I thought we covered all the bases that we needed to.” SGA meets every Monday at 5:30 p.m. in Blum, but will not be meeting next Monday because of Labor Day. The next SGA meeting will be on Sept. 12.
Less than a week after being inaugurated, the Guy/Samenus administration held its very first SGA meeting. The new administration and SGA Senate took over the final SGA meeting for the 2015-2016 academic year on April 25, where they introduced and passed several pieces of legislation. The first votes the new senate cast were to approve SGA’s constitution and the bylaws. Approving SGA’s governing document is something that happens each year as a way of starting things off, said SGA President Alec Guy. “In terms of approving the constitution and the bylaws, those are all kind of formalities that we do at the beginning of the year,” Guy said. The Senate then approved legislation to confirm President Guy’s executive board. The approved positions and appointments included Executive Vice President Connor Samenus, Director of Public Relations Gillian Evans, Director of Finance Matt Scholz, Director of Student Involvement Mon’tra Qualls-Woods and Assistant Director of External Relations Brad Stanton. The senate was also presented with an interim SGA operating budget at Monday night’s meeting. The budget was passed unanimously, but it is not binding and will likely be refined and reworked over the summer months Guy said. “Basically what happens is we get the budget and we go through and we decide how we want to allocate funds or if we want to change anything in the budget,” Guy said. “This is just kind of a rough estimate and then over the summer, we’ll go through and specify it and actually decide what we want to spend everything on. So, yes, this is just an approval of formality and it’s not binding, but the one we approve next meeting will be binding.” The last bill approved by the Senate was a resolution to thank the previous SGA President Ida Haefner and Vice President Brad Stanton for their work over the past year. Overall, the new administration was optimistic about the first meeting as well as the future. “Like I’ve said time and time again, I think this group has a lot of potential and we can do great things,” Guy said. “I think for the first meeting, it definitely went well. There were a few questions asked, which I’m excited about. Usually, at the first meeting, everyone is kind of timid, but there were some questions asked and some people spoke and wanted to clear things up before the vote, which is a great thing.” Vice President Connor Samenus, who led the session, thought the meeting ran well and looks forward to working with the senate in the future. “I think it went well. I mean, it’s the first one and I was a little nervous, but everyone was well informed on the legislation, so it was great,” Samenus said. “I’m really looking forward to getting to know the senators better on a personal level and just working to help students in whatever way possible. I feel like we have a really strong senate and we can get a lot done and I’m really excited.” The next SGA meeting will be held in the fall semester.
As one Missouri Western Student Government Association legacy steps down, another takes her place. Western President Robert Vartabedian officially inaugurated Alec Guy as SGA president and Connor Samenus as SGA executive vice president for the 2016-2017 school year. “I’m extremely optimistic about what this administration can do and I know that we can truly make a difference at Missouri Western,” Guy said. “I earnestly hope to make every student’s college experience better in some way and to make Missouri Western better as a whole.” Former SGA President Ida Haefner gave an emotional farewell during the event. “This has been a wonderful year and I am not going to soon forget it at all,” Haefner said to the students, faculty and staff members who had come to the inauguration. Haefner also reviewed the legislative accomplishments of her administration and senate. Some of those features included the Saint Joseph Transit bus initiative, the placement of multiple water-bottle filling stations around campus, funding for new bike racks and, most recently, the restructuring of Student Success Act fee money. President Guy presented the six-member Executive Board during his inauguration: - Executive Vice President, Connor Samenus - Director of Finance, Matthew Scholz - Director of Public Relations, Gillian Evans - Director of Student Involvement, Mon’tra Qualls-Woods - Assistant Director of External Relations, Brad Stanton - Secretary of Senate, Logan Zorn The 2016 SGA senators were also honored for being elected to their positions. The new Senate will hold its first official meeting Monday, April 25.