Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Why I gave up on the SGA

My name is Chris Slater. Depending on who you talk to, I am a respected member of the Concord University community. I initially attended my first four years at this institution like most do. Then, in a trend that is becoming increasingly more common, I came back for a fifth year. After that, I started what should have been my sixth and final year. I never finished it. A few half-hearted attempts to come back over the last few years have been met with apathy and failure.

I have finally decided that I am ready to quit wasting my life and go back to school. This semester has been spent talking to the necessary people in the necessary offices in order to get things like classes, financial aid, and the like in order for the upcoming 2013-2014 academic year.

In doing so, I have been making weekly trips to campus. In a previous blog post, a guy left the following comment: "I had hoped that they were exaggerating when they said that you were some loser who still obsessed with Concord, even though you don't go there."

I replied on the blog post itself and I'm replying here. I'm not obsessed with Concord. I'm obsessed (finally) with graduating from Concord. I don't know if people realize how easy it is to stay up-to-date with what's happening on campus. Show up for an hour every Wednesday and you have time to attend a meeting of the Student Government Association and read The Concordian. Add another hour and you have time to write a blog about it. Realistically, I spend 2-4 hours a week "obsessing" over Concord University. The sad thing is, that's probably more time than some of your SGA officials and Concordian editors probably spend at their jobs.

I know a lot about the SGA and The Concordian because I spent four years as a Concordian staff writer, News Editor, [interim] A&E Editor, [interim] Sports Editor, and Editor-in-Chief; and a large part of those four years I covered the actions (and inactions) of the SGA. After I Ieft the newspaper staff, I continued to attend meetings and report on them in my blog. As I started to realize I knew what I was talking about, I started adding my opinion into the mix whenever I felt it was necessary.

I came back and started covering this year's SGA. I knew a couple of them from seeing them over the years, I knew some of them just from hearing their names before, and most of them were unfamiliar to me. I went in with an open mind and wanted to see what this group of students could do for the students of Concord University.

To say that I was disappointed would be an understatement. I saw people who didn't know what they were doing holding important positions. I saw people who didn't care about what they were doing holding important positions. I saw people who didn't care in general sitting there killing time. And I saw a few people who genuinely did care trying to hold things together.

I had accepted that this year's SGA wasn't going to fight for the students like previous administrations. I accepted that this year's SGA was more laid back, more care free, more easy going.

There were so many things that the SGA could have fought for, but didn't. And, honestly, "fought for" might even be too strong. Cared about is more accurate here. There were so many issues this SGA should have cared about, or at least given the impression of caring about.

There are tuition increases as well as room and board increases. They were announced but nothing was done. Budgets cuts are looming for pretty much every single department at Concord. They had Rick Dillon talk about it a little bit, but that's it. The President of the University openly applied for another job, then got it and resigned. They mentioned it, but that's it. Rumor has it that the athletics department is unethically taking funds from other departments. That one hasn't been touched by the SGA.

I had accepted that they weren't going to fight for anything. And then Concord's food provider, Aramark, gave a presentation to SGA officials and CU administrators about the proposed new restaurant, Wingspan (or maybe it's Wing Span?). The idea is to get rid of South of Sicily and Grille Works and make that one big sports bar type of atmosphere. There will be taps that you can drink root beer out of and the hope of many is that one day you might be able to purchase alcohol there.

The SGA made the suggestion of moving the "bar" aspect of the sports bar to a different area. Aramark said no. The SGA took that information back to the weekly meeting and proceeded to get passionate, huffy-faced, and angry about it. They vowed to fight for what the students want! If it's the last thing this SGA does, they will make sure that this restaurant is moved 100 feet down from where Aramark wants it.

And that's when I gave up on the SGA. That happened last week, April 24. There was a meeting Wednesday, May 1. I did not attend. Aside from the last two prior academic years, I have had nearly perfect SGA meeting attendance for around six years. I didn't always agree with what the SGA was doing, but I understood and respected that they felt passionately that what they were doing was in the best interest of the students.

Of all this things for this year's SGA to fight for, a restaurant isn't it. It would have been one thing if they looked around and said, "Okay, what else is there left to fight for? We have a couple weeks left, let's tackle this bar tap deal." No, they sat around doing mostly nothing for the better part of two semesters, then decided to pick a pointless battle that does nothing but make them look petty.

I lost faith in the SGA after that moment. I know something like this would mean more and have more weight if it didn't come before the final two meetings, but for those students who care, this should mean something. Most are probably saying, "good riddance, now that guy won't bother us anymore." But, that's not the case.

I have said for years that the SGA is the most important student organization at Concord. For years, one of my main goals - first through the newspaper and then this blog - was to give students of Concord the information presented in those meetings.

I had an epiphany last week. I realized that it doesn't matter if the students know what this SGA does, because they don't do anything. When the administrators are looking at ways to cut the budget for next year, maybe they'll look at the part where each student pays $26 to the SGA. Maybe they'll decide that $26 x 3000-ish would be better spent given to the athletics department or the psychology department or the daycare or something else that wasn't an embarrassment.

Now, I don't want that to happen. I am going to give next year's SGA a shot. One of the biggest surprises to me over the last two semesters has been the competency of Chelsey Rowe. I didn't see much in her in the beginning, and while she's far from perfect, she has impressed me more than anybody in the State Room not named Andrew Miller or Derek Cline.

Josh Hanna dropped the ball this year. Hopefully Chelsey Rowe picks it up in the fall and runs with it to greater heights than any of us imagined. It's not just the reputation of an organization that is on the line. This organization is for the students. They need to serve the students better in the future.

5 comments:

  1. Dear "Concerned Student"

    If you feel as though the members of the SGA aren't doing their job, perhaps you should grow a back bone and try to change it yourself instead of writing news articles and blog posts about it. You are just as much part of the problem as the people you write about.

    Sincerely,
    an SGA Senator

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I feel like you're implying that I wrote the anonymous "concerned student" piece in this week's Concordian. 1) I don't care enough about Greek life to bash it and 2) I'm not one to post something anonymously.

      Re: your comments about me needing to join the SGA to fix it... You can be both a journalist and member of the SGA. But you won't truly be great at either one. It ruins your objectivity. The SGA is a public group. People need to be there to report what is going on. That's accountability. In previous years, it has been The Concordian who provided that accountability. Lately it's been me typing in a blog. It needs to be The Concordian & hopefully it will be next semester.

      A final note about identifying yourself as an anonymous senator: you're throwing your fellow senators under the bus by not standing behind your views. There are 8 or 9 or something people who could have written this. I'm going through my head thinking, "Was it that guy? How about her? I don't think it was this one, etc..." There's nothing wrong with being anonymous when the situation calls for it, but you're doing a disservice to your fellow Senators right now.

      Delete
  2. "Realistically, I spend 2-4 hours a week "obsessing" over Concord University. The sad thing is, that's probably more time than some of your SGA officials and Concordian editors probably spend at their jobs".

    The Concordian staff spends anywhere between 5-7 hours editing and putting the paper together weekly. The staff that I was a part of this semester was amazing, and worked so hard. Everything issue isn't going to be perfect, but that probably has something to do with us being college students. We are learning how to be journalists. I, myself, made 2 mistakes in the current issue and personally apologized to the one involved. You are entitled to your opinion, but next time you speak, hopefully it is something constructive at a staff meeting.

    Sara Cameron

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Seeing that has made me the happiest I've been all day. I want to see somebody stand up for an organization they believe in. That person defending The Concordian used to be me (and sometimes still is...). I definitely haven't lost faith in the future of The Concordian.

      Delete
  3. I also post these blogs to Facebook. A lot more discussion is going on there, involving SGA members, Concordian staff members, Concord administrators, and more. Check that out at facebook.com/chrisslater if you're not already friends with me.

    ReplyDelete