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.