SG Strengths/Weaknesses

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) - SGA President, 04-05

Category: Elections, Voting, Group Management, Team-Building, Organization, Strengths, Strengths/Weaknesses, Student/Constituents_Representing Well, Transition Planning & Execution, Weaknesses
Strength Details:1. Group Management, Team-Building

With three service divisions and three governing branches comprising Embry-Riddle's SG, it is essential to have cohesion and cooperation among them in order to most successfully accomplish the overall mission. The importance rests with the ability to work productively across the organization. When EaglesFM Campus Radio can successfully compliment a program that was designed by the Student Representative Board, but implemented by the TNG Productions, it exemplifies the effective communications structure and the winning outcome of a joint effort. Another useful tool for communication and information distribution is the ability to utilize the university Blackboard interface. Blackboard enables every branch/division to establish a group where documents can be posted, mass emails can be sent, and the users can read announcements posted by the organization builders. Teamwork is not easily developed; it requires the initiative put forth from everyone in the organization. At Embry-Riddle, SG holds a whole host of teambuilding activities to build unity and identity making serving fun and enjoyable. For example, before the Thanksgiving break, SG hosted a pot-luck dinner where everyone brought a dish that was representative of their roots. The SG Vice President hosted a lasagna holiday dinner at his home. Each branch and division is allocated incentive money that can be used for incentive outings; examples of incentive usage this semester include dinners, movies, mini-golfing and kayaking. The SG Holiday Banquet is approaching, and will allow for student leaders and administrators to come together to celebrate the successes and progress of the semester in a cheerful holiday environment. The SG continually invests in the human capital of the organization, making serving fun and ensuring that all officials have a vested interest in the group.

2. Student/Constituents, Representing Well

The Embry-Riddle SG would argue that this organization finds strength in its comprehensive representation of the students and the fact that a vast majority of the student body respects the organization. Relative to other schools, a voter turnout of more than twenty percent is worthy of boasting, and is indicative of the active interest students have in choosing their leadership. In representation, our Student Representatives plan and host academic forums where students are brought together with their respective faculty to discuss classroom options for the future and to coordinate student initiatives within respective degree programs. These same Student Representatives serve the students by serving daily office hours in the SGA office where a student is sure to receive help or be pointed in the right direction at any time of the day. Another effort to adequately represent the students' concerns is exemplified by public forums with the Chancellor. Students can ask questions about tuition or other university level issues. This effort to bridge the gap between the students and the administration has done more than provide a good working relationship among the students, faculty, and administration, but it has also illustrated to the campus community how much the SG works and can actually make visible effective change on campus. To further explain this, three positions opened on the Student Representative Board for the Spring 2005 semester. There were twenty-two applications for three positions on a board of twenty-one representatives. Simply put, more students than ever want to be part of an organization that represents, makes positive change, and drives towards a positive future.

3. Organization

SG student leaders often find themselves entangled in disputes over proper procedure. At Embry-Riddle, the SG has a comprehensive set of governing documents. There is a central constitution, which defines the overall structure and basic procedure of the organization. In addition, each branch and division operates under their own bylaws, which are more specific and fitting of the needs of that particular group. In addition to their operating bylaws, the Student Finance Board is directed by the Budgeting Guidelines when distributing the entirety of revenue generated by the SGA fee. The guidelines provide a reference point for questions regarding the allocation of funds and whether or not certain applications are appropriate. The elections are governed by Election Bylaws, which clearly spell out the procedure, timeline and responsibility of the candidates. By having sound governing documents and a solid structure in place, the Embry-Riddle SG wastes little time questioning policy, process and procedure.
Weakness Details:1. Effective evaluation and assessment tools

The SG has identified a weakness in that there is currently a lack of effective evaluation and assessment tools in practice. Without a sound evaluation process, it is very difficult to ascertain the health of the organization. The strategic planning process lends itself to evaluation and assessment. By having a plan in place, SG officials can continually check progress against this plan and make adjustments as necessary. Dollar amounts can be tied directly to each objective, and metrics can be developed. The SGA has many programs that require incessant quantitative assessment. For example, SafeRide, the premier program, has many parameters that need to be closely monitored. Factors such as number of rides, cost, pick-up and drop-off locations are essential in terms of judging the effectiveness of the program. In the past, these tools have not been utilized. The current strategic plan calls for the development and implementation of assessment and benchmarking tools that will fill this void.

2. Transition Planning & Execution

Planning for the future is difficult for Student Governments because of their operational and tactical leadership. It is important that once a strong and balanced administration and operation are in place that measures are taken to ensure that for the future. A challenge now presents itself to the Student Government because of the many accomplishments and steadfast advancements that have been made. That challenge is to ensure that no matter which administration succeeds the current one, they will have the tools they need to ensure a seamless turnkey transition. This opportunity is one that the Executive Board has planned for by strategically positioning the entire Student Government to move forward in the future while ensuring the same services that students enjoy are kept. There are three steps that are being taken to work towards establishing a stronger SG for future members including updating governing documents, rewriting budgetary guidelines, and reformatting the structure of leadership within the organization. The first initiative of updating the governing documents pin points the need for these living papers to reflect the organization as it operates currently. As an initiative into the future, the constitution has provisions to adapt and conform to the needs established by the SG at that time. In reference to rewriting the budgetary guidelines, one must understand the immense responsibility of being good stewards of the student's money when it comes to deciding where the funding will go. The newly written budgetary guidelines elucidate the vague areas where confusion has developed in the past working towards a healthy accountable system in the future. Finally, future plans to restructure the leadership representation for the future will allow for objective installations of new officers and solidify the best representation and dispersion of responsibilities. This will ensure that the highest qualified student leaders have the opportunity to lead and work toward building a stronger Student Government. Again, a smooth transition between administrations is the key to success

3. Elections, Voting

At Embry-Riddle, the voter turnout in SG elections is over 20% of the student body. While voter turnout exceeds that of comparative schools, it is also an indicator of where improvement is essential. Adequate representation is only adequate if students consciously understand the importance of electing the student officials to work for them. Always looking for ways to turn adversity into opportunity, the Executive Board has identified this challenge and has developed a plan to bring voters out by working with the Director of Internal Affairs, the Elections Chair, and the Director of External Affairs to ensure ease of online voting and extensive advertisement. The Student Representative Board is coordinating its efforts with the other branches to write a survey that will extract feedback from the students referring to the voting process. This information will provide the direction to needed to move forward. Signage, word of mouth, campus television station, slides before movies, and electronic notification are just a few of the mediums which have been identified that need to be maximized with respect to advertisement. Another hurdle when attracting students to the polls is to educate them as to who their future student leader candidates are. This is simply done by providing forums where exposure to the student body will empower and educate the students how to vote and give them an opportunity to choose their candidate. Additionally, because of recent success, the SG is expecting a large interest in vying for office. By the very nature of campaigning, a heated election will inherently drive out the voters. Online voting has greatly increased the ability for the students to vote because they can do it from the privacy of their own PC meanwhile ensuring secure votes via the Blackboard interface, which has built in security measures in the software to protect against voter fraud. After identifying and correcting these concerns, the Student Government looks forward to a higher voter turnout in the future.