Student Government Association faces pressure from Dean of Students

SGA members pose with Pres. Richard Schneider at the fall State of the Student address.

SGA members pose with Pres. Richard Schneider at the fall State of the Student address.

The Norwich University Dean of Students has threatened to ask NU President Richard Schneider to disband the Norwich University Student Government Association (SGA), according to an SGA official.

The SGA official, who requested anonymity, said that Dean of Students Martha Mathis expressed concern about the lack of representation for civilian students, and she said that members of the Corps of Cadets cannot accurately represent traditional students’ interests.

There are currently two civilian senators in the SGA Senate, according to Senate Chair Nick Shepherd, a studies-of-war-and-peace major from Kittery Point, Maine. There are three seats per class year reserved for traditional students, and three reserved for corps students, he said, so there are seven open spots for traditional students to fill, but no one has stepped up to fill them.

“I always encourage civilian members right now to go out (and) get your friends involved,” Shepherd said. He added that if that continues to fail as a policy, he may think of getting more directly involved in recruitment.

Mathis said that it is impossible for two civilian students to accurately represent everyone of that lifestyle. “Unless those two kids are sitting down with or collecting information from about 800 others, there is just no way we can trust that,” she said.

“I agree with the dean 100 percent in that it is critical for SGA to be represented by more civilian students than we have,” said SGA President George Bausch, a 21- year-old senior political science major from Brewster, Mass.

A former civilian student who was involved in SGA said that regardless of how well two civilians can represent the rest, they amount to a very small minority of the senate.

“If you have two civilians coming in and saying this is what every civilian wants on campus, they’re not going to be heard,” said Lisa Belanger, who graduated last year, and now works as an intern in NU’s Health and Wellness office.

Besides representation issues, Shepherd said another problem is that just 13 of a possible 24 senate seats are filled. “My senate is really depleted right now,” said Shepherd. Regarding the reserved seats by lifestyle, he said he “would love for that not to be a rule.”

Shepherd proposed constitutional changes to make all senate seats “at large,” meaning that anyone could hold them, regardless of lifestyle.

Belanger said she doesn’t like the proposal. “That’s not going to help the participation of civilian students,” she said.

If the changes are made, there will be no civilians in SGA, said SGA Vice President Nathan Edmondson, a 22-year-old senior criminal justice major from Haverhill, Mass.

Civilian participation, according to Edmondson, “has always been a problem,” but he says that means SGA must push civilian recruitment, not open civilian seats to corps students.

Norwich’s population is about two-thirds corps students, so seats are reserved for civilians by the constitution to prevent “the corps running the SGA,” Edmondson said.

“The president of the university places a lot of trust in the student government association to develop and propose legislation for the student body,” he said. He said he thinks that the senate chairman is alienating SGA as a governing body at Norwich if he tries to push this legislation.

The executive board has launched a campaign to recruit civilians, using social media, flyers, and more to get civilians interested and in the know. According to Shepherd, he has talked to civilians who didn’t know what SGA was, or that civilian students were allowed to be involved.

Civilian Resident Coordinator Giavanna DiGiorno said Bausch has made little effort to contact civilians, adding that she invited him to floor meetings. Bausch said he has received no such invitations.

Mathis said that corps members do a great job recruiting corps members, but not civilians.

“I think recruitment needs to be for the organization, not for a lifestyle,” she said, adding “I think there is really something to be said for someone in the other lifestyle really telling me that I’m wanted in the organization.”

Bausch argued he is working hard to bring civilians to the SGA. He recently launched a civilian recruitment campaign to try and fill empty senate seats, and at the beginning of the year, he and the vice president talked to rooks and civilian freshmen about SGA and getting involved.

There are 20 rooks in the SGA House of Representatives and six on the executive board, as well as one civilian freshman in the House of Representatives.

Mathis said that she’s happy for rooks to be involved in SGA but she doesn’t see what they have to bring to the table. “What in the world do (rooks) have to talk about?” she said. “What is their frame of reference!?”

Bausch expressed a desire to get more upperclassmen involved, but at the State of the Student Address this month, he said that he was grateful for the work that freshmen have done.

At the address, he told the student body about the need for civilians in the SGA, but he emphasized that as SGA President, he is not representing just the Corps of Cadets. “Ultimately we need more civilians, but when I’m at student government, I’m representing Norwich; not the corps, but Norwich as a whole,” said Bausch.

He also talked about the productivity of this year’s senate, which President Schneider made a point of at the address. This year’s senate has produced three pieces of legislation, all which will benefit every Norwich student, according to Bausch. “You tell me where there is a lifestyle discrimination,” he added.

Bookmark and Share

Comments

  1. Michael McCarthy says:

    This is ridiculous. I’ve seen the SGA grow since 2009 and every year no matter the outreach, traditional students rarely show an interest in student government. The largest interaction was when they wanted money for their clubs. There is no rhyme or reason to it aside from the classic culture divide between lifestyles at Norwich that no amount of BBQs can close. The SGA has always stayed in its lane, working on topics that effect all students. The only exception I can think of was the resistance to the abolition of “special units” in the Corps. Traditional students (we need to stop calling them civilians–it’s a misnomer) need to step up and represent their school. Of the dozens of traditional student SGA members I had the pleasure of working with, they were often the more passionate and dedicated Senators and Executive members. I also staunchly disagree with Dean Mathis’ lofty assertion that Rooks have nothing to talk about. For one, they pay the hefty tuition just like upperclassmen, they are also fresh out of tours and brochures of other campuses giving them perspective on other like universities. More importantly they are the future of the university.

  2. During my time at Norwich, prior to my deployment to Afghanistan and subsequent medical situation, I served as a member of the SGA as a civilian. I started off in the “House” before I was elected to fill one of the Civilian seats in the Senate, I later served on the executive board along with two other civilians in 2012-13 after running for SGA President (I did terrible, no hard feelings). While there are a number of seats that go unfilled, it was not due to any lack of effort by the SGA’s Corps membership.

    While I was involved with the SGA, many of us (both Corps and Civilian) sought active members to join our ranks from both life styles, often times we had a better response from Corps students. Time after time then SGA President Mike McCarthy would ask for advice on how to better attract Civilian students, current President George Bausch has done the same. While I can’t speak for Bausch being invited to the floor meetings I can speak for the fact that the SGA is very open and welcoming to students from all walks of life…. I never once felt as though there was any sort of stigma from being a civilian Senate member during my tenure.

    My time in the Norwich SGA helped prepare me to take on various leadership roles I’ve had to face in my time away from Norwich. As an enlisted soldier, I used some of the skills I learned working with Corps and Civi’s in the SGA to better negotiate interpersonal issues while deployed often times yielding better results than if I would have just pointed to my stripes and said “do it now” as many NCOs did. SGA is a leadership lab at a school that forms leaders, both in civilian roles and military. We must not allow for it to be disbanded simply because there is a seeming lack in civilian recruits, I instead have a possible solution to the issue.

    If we offered some sort of an incentive, perhaps one (1) credit for those students involved in the SGA as a “Case Study in Leadership” we might see more students interested in being involved. It would be voluntary, just like those who choose to take an extra elective and could be counted much like senior ROTC classes do for Corps students. By allowing students to not only gain leadership credentials for their resumes but also a single academic credit you might see a broader interest in SGA matters.

    As I sit awaiting my medical retirement from the Army (the only thing holding my return to Norwich to finish up that elusive BA), I have been engaged in politics (the real kind…) and I truly feel that my involvement in SGA and other Norwich activities made me into the budding leader I have become here in my little corner of Michigan. As I work on multiple campaigns during the 2014 cycle I continue to think back to my experiences on SGA (where I made some of my closer friends at NU) and I am thankful for the experience. Don’t let yet another leadership tradition be killed off simply out of a lack of trying a different approach.

    Sincerely,

    Rob Kumpf
    SGT, USA
    NU ’13 (Perpetually behind…)

Speak Your Mind

*