By Catherine Dexter
Each year the Student Government Association Executive Cabinet “transitions” the newly elected cabinet for the next year. Transition begins immediately following the SGA elections, with the newly elected members shadowing the outgoing members until the official Transition ceremony at the beginning of April.
As we approach Transition this year, I wonder what exactly our current SGA Executive Cabinet is teaching the cabinet-elect for 2008-2009.
While most colleges and universities struggle with apathetic administrators and faculty (yes, we have our share of this as well), Mary Washington is unique in that our very own student leaders appear to be the most apathetic of all.
Looking back on the past year, I wonder what happened to the campaign promises made during last year’s hard fought elections. What happened to the extended hours at Seacobeck and the weekend hours at the UMW Health Center that were promised by SGA President Krishna Sinha during his campaign?
Sinha and the majority of his cabinet have done little, if anything, to improve this campus and listen to student concerns.
At the beginning of the Spring 2008 semester, SGA Vice President and UMW Student Senate President, Jacqui Newman, informed the Student Senate Board that she would be unable to attend weekly Senate meetings due to an employment conflict. At a particularly heated board meeting where the possibility of Newman resigning was discussed, Sinha told the gathered board members that Senate was only a “small percentage” of Newman’s responsibilities as SGA Vice President, compared to her other duties.
In actuality, Senate is the main responsibility of Newman as SGA Vice President. Her purpose on the SGA Executive Cabinet is to bring Senate motions to the cabinet meetings, but how could she do that if she’s not present at weekly meetings? The UMW Student Senate acts as the student body’s voice to administrators, faculty, and the SGA Executive Cabinet. It was shockingly clear through his statements regarding Senate that the SGA President was indifferent to the concerns of the student body.
How is the Student Senate supposed to push forward student concerns without the support of the SGA President?
This past February, The Office of Student Activities hosted the first annual Student Leadership Conference. The conference featured breakout sessions led by faculty and staff and a keynote speaker from Christopher Newport University. The conference was designed to help current and future student leaders understand different leadership styles and what it means to be a student leader. Only one member of the current SGA Executive Cabinet and two members of next year’s SGA Executive Cabinet attended the conference. The Leadership Conference would have been a good opportunity to bring all student leaders, both current and future, together but no one had the time to attend.
The SGA Executive Cabinet could learn a few lessons on leadership from Giant Productions, ARH, and a handful of other campus clubs and organizations. There has been a significant increase in activities on campus this year, due in large part to the hard work of Giant Productions, exemplified by their success at bringing at least three nationally known artists (Plain White T’s, Eve 6, and Lupe Fiasco) to UMW.
Giant Productions also had the largest turnout of any club or organization at the OSACS sponsored Student Leadership Conference.
Krishna Sinha is not the only apathetic student leader at Mary Washington. The Legislative Action Committee was left in shambles by former chair James Martin in December 2007 when he left LAC after being offered a better position by the Virginia Young Democrats Organization. Martin was one of the most vocal candidates during the elections for the 2007-2008 cabinet and he was running unopposed!
Since Martin’s departure, LAC has struggled with retaining members and restructuring the organization because of an inefficient and useless organizational structure left by Martin.
Mary Wagoner, Martin’s successor, deserves credit for keeping LAC up and running despite the setbacks created by James Martin’s departure.
I hope the incoming SGA Executive Cabinet learns from the mistakes made by their predecessors and shows, not just tells, the students that they actually care for the Mary Washington community for their entire terms; something that most of this year’s elected leaders failed to do.
Catherine Dexter is a senior.