Why should students care about SGA?
SGA Senate Meetings are open to the public and take place every Monday at 5:30 p.m. in Commons 318. Photo by Victor Gee.

Why should students care about SGA?

In the Fall 2017 semester, the Student Government Association had a budget of $1,026,165. This budget comes from the Student Activity Fee, $49 that every UMBC student pays each semester.

SGA is the central hub for student events at UMBC. Three branches comprise the SGA: an executive branch, legislative branch and judicial branch. Additionally, there is a president, vice president and treasurer. The president serves as the leader and voice of SGA, attends weekly meetings and shapes the year’s strategy for campus policies and plans.

Meghan Lynch, the Vice President for Student Organizations and senior political science major, says “Student Events Board gets $230,000, The Retriever gets $60,000 and Student Organizations get $275,000. Almost every [student] event is funded through the Finance Board.” These funds are listed under the SGA Fall 2017 budget spreadsheet as organizational support while the remaining funds are allocated to operating support, which plays a role in coordinating administrative budgets.

Although SGA is a large and well-known organization, several undergraduates have expressed lukewarm opinions and confusion about SGA operations. Senior information systems major and president of the Vietnamese Student Association Truc Pham says, “Other than finance, there’s really nothing else that [I think] they do. They don’t help us plan; we do all that ourselves. We have to go and request the money and everything has to be planned out beforehand.”

Because students see SGA as a means of acquiring funding for their clubs and events, outreach issues arise. Junior mechanical engineering major Kevin Zimmerman says, “People only know about SGA when they need money for their club. SGA only comes into student’s lives when it comes to their own club activities.”

SGA reaches out to students through its displays on Main Street, social media and email notifications. However, the SGA still has difficulty connecting with students despite SGA’s attempts to increase publicity. Lynch says, “it’s hard to find ways that [can reach] all students, but we’ve thought about introducing students to SGA during orientation and making it more visible during welcome week.”

However, work and study may cause students to ignore SGA entirely. Senior information systems major Urgy Eado says “in college, people don’t really care. They are more independent and busy with classes and jobs. [SGA] is really only good for money. I don’t really know what they can do for me.”

As a commuter, Zimmerman finds it difficult to participate in SGA. “I’m not around enough to listen [to SGA] and it isn’t advertised all that well,” he says. “Commuters won’t care about SGA as much because hours of their day are spent commuting.”

Lynch believes publicity and exposure can possibly increase student interest. “If we could get a partnership with The Retriever and have it report more on the good side instead of scandals, it could be another way to raise student awareness about SGA,” she says. “SGA empowers students; it gives them the power to change things on campus.”

SGA seeks ways to increase involvement by providing an environment where students can share ideas. One way students can express their ideas is by participating in SGA’s campus change competition, ProveIt!. Computer science freshman and SGA senator Jordan Troutman says, “SGA is really about having students [voices] heard. We wouldn’t have had the RLC or the [upcoming] Commons Garage tracker if it weren’t for students.”

Lynch also mentioned Coffee & Conversation, an SGA event that encourages students to share ideas and beliefs. “It was very interesting to watch what happened during the gun rights panel in February. About 90 people showed up to the event,” says Lynch. “It’s like something clicked; they realized what SGA was doing, and we heard from them what SGA needed to do.”

“We desperately need you,” Lynch says to all undergraduates. “We need you to know the work we do and we need you to hold us accountable. People look at us as part of the administration, but that’s not what we are. You decide what events to fund, what happens on campus and what change UMBC needs.”