Candidates debate contested SGA positions

For the first time in several years, the positions of President and Executive Vice President for SGA are being contested, and on Monday the candidates met in Spratt 214 to debate platform issues. Current SGA VP Brad Stanton and Senator Haden McDonald debated against SGA Director of Communications Alec Guy and Senator Conner Samenus about their methods for making SGA more accessible and useful for the student body. VP candidates McDonald and Samenus were the first to take to the podiums. The candidates were asked a series of questions by Griffon News editors. McDonald started off by stating that they are running on a platform based on transparency, community and innovation. He said the biggest change that he and Stanton would make would be allocating $86,000 to the Student Success Act in order to enhance Western's technology, mentioning the campus's old computers and poor WiFi connections. Samenus said that he and Guy are also hoping to increase transparency and will do so by being proactive and seeking the opinions of the student body. Both groups of candidates said they wish to make the university more inclusive for minority students. Samenus said he and Guy had met with Gentlemen of Color, and had plans to meet with the Black Student Union in order to get an idea of what they could do to better represent them. Stanton said that, while both parties had been in a picture taking a stand against discrimination, Guy had abstained from legislation that Stanton had proposed to stand against discrimination. This caused a minor outburst from Samenus, who had it explained that the reason Guy had abstained was to further the discussion on the proposed bill. While both candidates expressed similar goals, there was some hostility between them regarding leadership experience and methods of getting things done. McDonald said the experience that he and Stanton have has already put them ahead of their opponents. "They're providing the ideas that Brad and I are already solving," McDonald said. "By voting for them you're not getting anything done, by voting for Brad and I you're getting something done. Clearly we act on our ideas. They haven't been able to prove that they've acted on a single idea that they've brought forward." Samenus thought the debate went well but said he wished that they would've focused more on the issues. "It was nice to get a few points out there. It got a little hostile which I didn't expect. I wish it hadn't, because the main issue right now is the students, it doesn't matter what's going on between the candidates." When the presidential candidates took the floor, the questions became a little more intense. Both Guy and Stanton appeared unable to directly answer a question regarding an increase of roughly $50,000 over the 2008 fiscal year Executive budget. Hostilities seemed to remain between the opposing presidential runners. Guy believed that the disagreements were a good way to explore different points of view. "There were definitely times of hostility where we kind of focused on each other more so than we [did] on the issues but I think that's all very healthy. You kind of have to have these kind of different conflicting views in order to make progress and to consider different view points," Guy said. Stanton believed the "clashes" were caused by a difference in viewpoints on the issues. "There's a dissonance between somebody that wants to speak ideas and then somebody who wants to speak plans and goals, and I think Haden and I really want to speak our plans, speak our minds and speak our goals, and our opposition sometimes just spoke, you know, ethereal plans that don't necessarily have a way to materialize." Current SGA President Ida Haefner said she isn't endorsing any candidate, but thought they all did well during the debate. "I'm really proud of my two e-board members with Brad and ... Alec. They've done really well, definitely, putting out their opinions, and I think things, I mean,  got a little heated at some points, but I think they did a really good job of keeping that camaraderie as well," Haefner said. The SGA elections will be held online and will begin on March 2 and end Wednesday, March 3 at 11:59 p.m. Votes can be cast at www.missouriwestern.edu/sga.

Fees by the student, for the student: Understanding the Student Success Act

Rarely do college students decide that college should cost even more than it already does, but students at Missouri Western did just that several years ago. The Student Success Act (formerly known as the Save Our School Act) is a student -imposed fee that has collected over $2 million dollars from students over the few years it has been around. Created in 2012, the fee charges $75 to full-time students per semester, $50 to part-time students and $25 for summer semesters. Put in place by student government and not a student body vote, the fee helps to fund a variety of student services. Current SGA Vice President Brad Stanton said threats at the time of cuts to the university’s budget led to the creation of the SSA fee. “What was happening was that the state government was threatening budget cuts to basically all the universities [in Missouri], and Missouri Western determined that those budget cuts would have to come from cutting student services,” Stanton said. “So, SGA, at the time, said that was not acceptable and created this fee to take the place of those budget cuts, which would save services like the Center of Student Engagement, the Center for Multicultural Education and some of those offices that aren’t really core to the academic experience but are core to the student experience.” Those budget cuts ultimately did not happened but the SSA fee remained in place. The fee then changed its purpose. “The budget cut never came,” Stanton said, “so the fee was still put in place and since it meant to save student services in the beginning, now we decided to transition to kind of the model of supporting student services.” Since its inception, SSA has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a variety of projects. SSA was initially intended to help fund five key areas: recreation services, Center for Academic Support, student success and advising, student life and leadership and career services. Over time, however, that seemed to change as SSA funds were used to fund everything from International Student Services, Baker Fitness equipment rentals, nursing services at Esry, theater productions, parking lot renovations, library updates, student life programming and career development events. The current fiscal year (FY16) allocated $70,000 to Baker Fitness for new equipment rentals and $60,000 went to Esry Health Center to extend hours and contract-in a registered nurse. After much debate, it also allocated money was also allocated to help fund a renovation project of Blum Union as well as a renovation of the leaking Looney Pool. Who decides? How much SSA money gets allocated and where it gets allocated is decided by the Student Fee Advisory Committee. The committee is comprised of six members and is meant to represent both the student and the university sides of how the money should be spent. Three of the members are students picked by the SGA president. The other three are administration members picked by the University president. Once the committee reaches an agreement on how the money is to be allocated, it is submitted to SGA Senate to approve or deny. If it passes SGA, the proposal is then sent to the University President to be approved or vetoed. SGA administrative coordinator Jessica Frogge said that having students on the committee allows them to have a voice in what happens on campus. “I think our view with this funding is to be able to say, ‘hey, this is what students want,’” Frogge said. “This is our control of this money to fix what students are wanting, not administration saying this is what we think students want. So it gives students a little more control over being able to use it for things that they feel they want changed on campus." Frogge said having the administration on the committee provides another perspective into how to spend the money. “It is also nice to have the administration in on this committee because sometimes they see needs that students don’t, because students are only here for four years,” Frogge said. “A lot of times, even the students up here in student government change from year to year, so having the administration here to say ‘hey, we really see this need and we really feel like students would benefit from this,’ so it’s nice to have their input.” SGA Senator Haden McDonald was one of the three students who represented Missouri Western students by serving on the SSA advisory committee last year. At times, representing the student body as a whole was difficult, McDonald said. “Between the three of us [students], we always had different ideas and there were a few times where we all agree on the same idea, but not always,” McDonald said. “That was a little hard on us because the question becomes who are we representing. We’re not supposed to be representing ourselves. We’re supposed to be representing the students. Then the question is what do the students think.” Not only is there difficulty in getting students to agree, but so is getting the committee as a whole to do the same. When a proposal came from the administration for SSA funds to help finance part of the renovations to Spratt Stadium, the student portion of the committee rejected it. “So I think the administration was trying to put money to fund large items that, I think, they saw as things that students do use, but not necessarily student success,” McDonald said. “When we went in there, all three students agreed that student success was going to be a priority. That if we’re going to fund anything, it needs to be student success." McDonald said that while good has come about from the fee, there were times in the past when SSA funding went to things other than student success related programs. “I think we provided funding for things like parking lot renovations outside of Baker and I wouldn’t consider these deferred maintenance type issues as things that go toward student success,” McDonald said. “Those are things that should be addressed by the university and not a student fee. The CAS got carpet and that’s questionable. It’s borderline because the CAS is helpful for the students and that’s nice, but does the carpet in the CAS help the students? It’s things like that is a question of should a student fee be paying for it.” Is SSA here to stay? While there has been some tension over the allocation of the fee and the fee itself over the years, it seems like the SSA fee will be around for years to come since there are no initiatives to alter or repeal it. SGA Vice President Brad Stanton supports the fee and said that it is important to remember what the SSA funds when discussing the fee’s future. “Just really being able to sustain the student services that we need and then also building new projects is great for a university that’s so poorly funding,” Stanton said. “Having this pool of money, I think, is worth the $75 [a semester] when you’re getting a whole new building, you’re getting a completely renovated pool and things like that. You’re getting these student services that you can use for free. I think it’s worth it. I think it’s a good fee.” Likewise, Frogge said eliminating the SSA fee would likely cause more fees to take its place. “Honestly, I don’t think it’s a fee that students should really give up… I feel like if this fee is taken away, you’re going to start to see fees like a health fee tacked on and other fees may eventually come about to help with more student[-focused] things,” Frogge said. “If you want to continue to see more student upgrades of what students want, then this fee is a good thing. And compared to other universities, I don’t feel like our fees are high and our cost of tuition is a lot lower. I feel like taking away this fee is kind of taking away the power of change on campus from the students.” While SSA may provide students a way to change things on campus, others like McDonald feel that the Student Success Act itself needs to change. “So, I would say that for the most part, it [SSA money] has gone toward student success, but there are still some times when it didn’t and that’s what needs to be changed for the future,” McDonald said. “I really hope that SGA makes that effort as a whole to change SSA to redefine it to go towards student success and only student success.” As for now, there are no concrete plans to change or repeal the SSA fee, ensuring that student success will be a topic of discussion for years to come.

SGA plans to give out rally towels

SGA is trying to rally up support for the MWSU women’s basketball team. At their meeting on Monday Feb. 15, SGA discussed buying rally towels in support of the MWSU Women’s basketball team. The proposal is to buy around 1,000 rally towels in the event that the NCAA Regional Tournament is hosted at Missouri Western. Each rally towel would cost $1.86, bringing the towel total to $1,860. SGA President Ida Haefner introduced the idea before the Senate. “Brett Esely (Associate Director of Athletics for External Relations) has come to me, or sent me an email actually, about our women’s basketball team who are 23-2. They’re ranked eighth in the country and that’s fantastic,” Haefner said. “So, we have a chance to host the NCAA regional tournament here at Missouri Western and so, because of that, he’d like to know if we would be interested in purchasing rally towels for that." Haefner said that the towels help add to the experience and boost school spirit. “Rally towels have been shown to really spread support, and it just adds that touch of vibrancy,” Haefner said. “They’d be that gold we had for the football games before, I imagine. It’s a good, poppy color. They just kind of pop out and really show support. If you’ve got a rally towel in your hand, you’re yelling, you’re screaming for your team and it’s just that much better.” Many of the SGA senators were in favor of the purchase. SGA Executive Vice President Brad Stanton also supported the idea. “I think it’s fantastic that we’re in this position because it means that we have such a successful women’s basketball team that we are asking to provide something for the crowd to get more into it,” Stanton said. Haefner also said that the cost of these towels is less than previous rally towel purchases. “We spent more than that, I believe, for the football games, and we have an unranked football team and we have a ranked women’s basketball team,” Haefner said. “So I’m thinking towels are an okay way of going with it.” Whether or not SGA purchases the rally towels depends on if Western hosts the NCAA regional tournament. That decision will be dependent on the women’s basketball team’s regional standings. Those standings will be released on Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 17. The NCAA regional tournament is scheduled for March 3-6.

SGA candidate applications open up

As America begins to vote on its next president, Missouri Western is gearing up for its own elections. Student Government position applications became available online on Monday, Feb. 8. There are up to 20 senator positions available, in addition to the SGA President and Executive Vice President positions, which are also up for grabs. In order to run for an SGA senator position, one must be a full-time student, have and maintain a GPA of at least 2.25, be in good academic standing and attend three SGA meetings. For SGA President and Executive Vice President positions, candidates must be full-time students with GPA of at least a 3.00 and attend MWSU for two full semesters prior to the election. All candidates must fill out a form and return it to the SGA office by Feb. 22, no later than 4:30 p.m. In addition to all the other requirements, current SGA President Ida Haefner shared what she thought was being looked for in SGA candidates. “We’re looking for leaders,” Haefner said. “We’re looking for people that can be that face for Missouri Western. In the position that I’m in, as SGA President, you are that face for Missouri Western. You are that person.” While representing the students, SGA members also have to interact with administration in various ways. With that in mind, Haefner said that SGA members should stand up for students in any possible clashes with the administration. “You also need to not be afraid of administration and stand your ground,” Haefner said. “It’s not something that you come into, it might be something that you have to work towards, but it’s definitely something you’re not afraid of doing. “ SGA Advisor and Vice President of Student Affairs Shana Meyer said that SGA provides opportunities for interested students to affect change on campus. “The students have quite a bit [of power] to make change on campus,” Meyer said. “This past year, we have seen them fund things like the sidewalk outside the union, which will be a big [Griffon] seal. That’s quite a bit of money going to that. We’ve seen the students allocate money toward other students going on conferences and trips. They help co-sponsor different events with many of the events on campus. They even do projects like the bike racks on campus, so I think that if a student wants to make change on campus, this is one way they can do so.” Both Haefner and Meyer hoped for a competitive race this year. “If students don’t apply and we don’t have another contested race, then you don’t have a choice as to who your president is,” Haefner said. “We hope we have good turnout this year, both in people running for seats and for those voting as well,” Meyer said. “I mean, even if a student isn’t interested in running for a seat themselves, they should have an interest at least in voting for who will represent them.“ Lastly, Haefner said that anyone with questions about running for SGA should talk to current SGA members. “If you have any qualms about running, talk to us,” Haefner said. “We will help you. If you don’t think that being a part of an executive board is something you want to start off with, start as a senator and work your way up.”

It’s official- WAC is on its own

SGA_Oct1915_VPStanton-web
After a vote of the student body, the Western Activities Council split from the Student Government Association, forming a separate organization Friday, Oct. 16. The ballot question passed a two-thirds vote of Western students. SGA has been discussing the policy change for multiple weeks, but now that the students have approved the constitutional amendment, it has been added to the constitution. “It’s official now,” Brad Stanton, executive vice president of SGA, said. “President Vartabedian has already signed the policy, so the split has happened.” The vote passed amidst concerns of lacking communication from SGA to the student body regarding the change. But SGA Executive President Ida Haefner dismisses these concerns. “We provided a link to the new constitution, highlighting the changes about WAC,” Haefner said. “Unfortunately, there’s not too much more we could have done.” SGA Administrative Coordinator Jessica Frogge suggests that most students won’t notice any effect from the policy change. “To the student, they’re probably not going to notice a lot of difference,” Jessica Frogge, SGA administrative coordinator, said. “To SGA, it’s one less thing that technically, probably shouldn’t fall under them anyway.” But even senators and WAC members won’t notice any changes until next year. The main revision caused by the amendment is the way WAC requests funding. Before the policy vote, WAC had to request money on a line item basis, meaning SGA could deny funding for specific activities or programs. “Next year, WAC will submit a full proposal for funding of their different events,” Stanton said. “For this year, they’ll continue receiving funding the same as always.” Though the change may seem redundant, Frogge stresses that the separation is in line with other universities. “All of the universities I’ve talked to unanimously have their activities association separate from their student government,” Frogge said.