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Press Clipping: Missouri State University - SGA 2003-2004: Decisions, actions in review

SGA 2003-2004: Decisions, actions in review

Mar 19, 2004
By Mandy Phillips

The past year in SMS' Student Government Association has been one filled with color and excitement, headlined by high-profile change and new territory for the student government at SMS.

Resolutions dealing with federal legislation, student organizations, funding and budget concerns and changes in student fees have all bounced through the government branches during the last eight months.

Changes in student fees is what public relations chair Lindsey Haymes called the most important issue SGA has argued and dealt with this year, both because of its impact and because of the student response.

"The thing I really appreciate about the fees was that everybody on campus really participated," Haymes said. She added the large number of letters written to the student press and interaction of senators with their constituents as proof of the participation.

"That was really the perfect example of what a student government should be," Haymes said. "That's the best issue that's been handled the best way. I think people really became aware of student government and aware of what we can do and what we're not doing."

The proposals recently debated on the Senate floor include proposed increases to recreation fees, parking permit fees and a decrease in the student involvement fee in order to offset the budget crunch in Missouri's higher education programs while still maintaining and improving the campus.

A somewhat less publicized resolution SGA passed this year addressed the Patriot Act and the impact it could have on campus. Among other suggestions to members of the University community was a recommendation that signs be posted in Meyer Library making patrons aware that, under the United States Patriot Act, a record of checking out books may be accessed at any time without the individual's knowledge or approval.

Chris Curtis, Director of Political Activities, said the resolution was the first of its kind in which a resolution was adopted in support of such a wide-reaching issue.

"We took a pretty hard stance against the Patriot Act and the impact it could have on students," Curtis said. "Even after Sept. 11, we'd never really taken a stance on a major national political issue before."

SGA President Rafiel Warfield said the Patriot Act resolution was a fairly controversial one to adopt.

"It wasn't that big of an issue in the way it came out, but it was a big issue on whether or not we should be doing this," Warfield said. "I know personally, I had to think long and hard before I signed off on that, because although a lot of senators were saying 'this is a good idea,' originally, the language in there was a little too harsh."

The resolution was eventually toned down and what Warfield described as "middle ground" was reached in order to pass the bill.

"And because of that, we have had two letters now from United States senators, Christopher Bond and James Talent; both sent responses back because of that resolution," he said. "They didn't agree with us. They were very tactful about it, but they basically said they didn't agree with us and that they supported the Patriot Act."

SGA also became the first student government in Missouri to join the American Student Government Association as a member of its founding class, Curtis said.

"It's designed to help make student government associations more effective and more efficient at fighting for students' voices around the country," he said.

Warfield said one of the first orders of business for the 2003-2004 session helped determine how the rest of the semester would go, as somewhat of a division occurred within the student government throughout the year.

"Our first major issue was the Campus Judicial Board selection," Warfield said. "That kind of set the tone for the year."

Warfield and Vice President Andrea Smith said some board hopefuls questioned the appointments, accusing the duo of appointing friends who would assist in passing legislature and give support to the executives, rather than appointing those who would do the best job in the position.

"It was based on who would actually look at the constitution, apply the constitution and not have any personal feelings," Smith said. "And who would be the most objective without taking into account their own personal political views."

Some students and senators disagreed, claiming the president and vice president extended deadlines illegally in order to keep certain senators off the board.

Ryan Cooper, senator representing the hotly debated organization Young Americans for Freedom, said Warfield encouraged personal friends to apply after deadline in order to keep Sen. Stuart Miller off the board.

"If SGA were to say that the sun doesn't exist, that doesn't mean the sun doesn't exist," Cooper said. "It still exists. It just means they're ignorant to it."

"Those applicants should not have been considered after the deadline, pure and simple," he said.

Cooper made a name for himself around campus as the center of controversy after his politically conservative organization was granted student organization status by a Senate vote, then denied that status through an executive veto from Warfield.

"I think had this situation with YAF happened with any other SGA administration, the results would be different," Cooper said. "There wouldn't have been all the controversy."

While Warfield said he stands by his veto of the organization, another issue that caused some dissent among the student body caused him to express some regret. In November, SGA approved a resolution supporting the Presidential Centennial Scholarship and agreed to find a way to fund the program through charging $3 per student. Early this past spring, a resolution was passed calling for funds to be allocated to the scholarship through the Wyrick fund, an entity setup to create various projects on campus. Student outcry against using the Wyrick fund to pay for a scholarship was loud and mighty. SGA eventually reversed the Wyrick resolution, but was still left with the dilemma of funding the scholarship.

"As I look back on it now, I think the Senate made a hasty decision in passing it and not looking into it, and I know I made a hasty decision in signing it and not requiring it be more specific," Warfield said. "They went on vague stuff.

"Their information was very vague and general: This is a scholarship, this is what it's going to be doing. We didn't have any kind of information about the impact that it would have on other scholarships, the impact that it would have on fees, nor did we have any information about the standard and requirements for the scholarship."

Warfield said the resolution stands out as a blemish in the session.

"As I look back on it now, if there was one thing I could change, that would be the one," he said.

Warfield said the way the government was run this session has differed somewhat from past semesters.

"One thing that we've done differently from other administrations in the past is that we're actually regarded SGA as a system," he said. "That's what we are. There's an executive branch, there's a legislative branch and there's a judicial branch, and, as a whole, the system has been working like a system this year."