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The Blue & Gray Press | October 24, 2017

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President O'Brien Talks of SGA

BY JESSICA MASULLI

“When I ran for SGA President,” Sean O’Brien mused, “I was in the unique position of running unopposed.”

It is no surprise then that O’Brien won his bid for the presidency in March of last year.

Previously, O’Brien served as SGA Press Secretary during the 2007-2008 school year. He also held the post of ARH Executive Treasurer and was the Student Chair for the White Ribbon Campaign from 2006 to 2008.

As President, O’Brien has a specific outlook on both his office and his duties.

“The SGA President is the student body’s representative in the administration and the Board of Visitors,” he said, adding, “I feel like I have a responsibility to answer to everyone. I see myself as less of a president and more of a communicator and facilitator.”

Although O’Brien is planning to address some of the longstanding issues at Mary Washington such as poor Internet connectivity, he came into office with the goal of increased communication as his top priority.

“I want to improve communication campus wide,” He said. “We need to improve relations between students and the administration. They need to be more accessible to student needs.”

O’Brien also mentioned the need for better communication between Mary Washington and the Fredericksburg community as a whole.
“There’s obviously a strained relationship between the community and the college,” O’Brien said. “There has been a breakdown there.”
One way O’Brien hopes to create this type of communication is by urging the various clubs and organizations on campus to work in concert with one another to achieve similar goals. By fostering better relations, O’Brien hopes to increase both the effectiveness and cohesiveness of student organizations.

As far as presidential work ethic is concerned, O’Brien already has his on display, instituting office hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays, usually from 1:00 to 2:00, in order to give students a chance to meet their SGA president and discuss issues that they feel are important.
O’Brien also urges that students with complaints or issues should seek out their student Senator.

Visibility of the SGA’s actions is another issue that O’Brien plans to address. According O’Brien, the SGA is so poorly publicized campus-wide that a lot of what is accomplished goes unnoticed. Another reason, he says, is time.

“A lot of the things we work on take longer than a year,” he said. “A lot of the things [Kris] Krishna, our former president, started, I hope to finish this year.”

O’Brien was also critical of the refusal of many to get involved in the student government process, a process he feels is invaluable to the university.

“Last year, both the current president and vice-president ran unopposed. That shouldn’t happen,” he said. O’Brien went on to explain that because there was no opponent, he was required to do very little campaigning, making it ultimately harder to reach the students with his ideas.

O’Brien was also cognizant of the Princeton Review’s charge that Mary Washington still struggles, with “long lines and red tape,” a charge he did not deny.

“Students do not know how to navigate the system to get their voices heard,” he said. “That is the SGA’s fault, and that’s the administrations fault. We need to do a better job.”

A large part of O’Brien’s plan involves remedying that. Just as he hopes to increase communication across the board by involving students in the processes of the administration, he also intends to bring the faculty into the realm of the students.

“I want to get the core administration out of George Washington and into Seacobec, and into the Nest,” He said. “Let them interact with the students.”

O’Brien was clear that his role as president may not fit into what many students are used to.

“I’m not as glamorous and well known as past presidents,” he said. “I’m not going to be yelling and screaming on campus walk. That’s not my personality. But I will be in the office, at my desk, working to fulfill my duties.”