Seven new members of Webster University’s Student Government Association (SGA) were elected on Sept. 23,…
UPDATE: Third member of SGA resigned
Updated on Jan. 31
A third member of the student government resigned from the organization since the beginning of the month. Caitlyn Ann Vanover resigned last week from her senator at-large position. Vanover joined SGA last September. SGA Vice President Zoe Burton said Vanover indicated she was no longer enjoying SGA meetings and activities. Burton said this third resignation is somewhat worrisome. However, she said SGA’s most recent working session was the most productive one they had this semester.
“The people that are supposed to be there are and are ready to work,” Burton said. “That’s what matters.”
Published on Jan. 24
The vice president and secretary of the Student Government Association (SGA) on campus resigned from their positions earlier this month. Heather Hamilton and Emily Mertz both said SGA was not a supportive environment in the fall semester.
“I loved serving and fighting to give the students a voice. I will miss it, of course, but I’ll miss what it used to be,” Hamilton said. “SGA last semester is not a representation of how SGA should be.”
Hamilton, a senior now, joined SGA her sophomore year as senator for the College of Fine Arts. She later became vice president her junior year under previous president Caroline Wiley. Hamilton wanted to be a representative for her fellow stud
ents and make sure their voices were heard.
Hamilton said the dynamic of SGA in the fall did not support her enough to achieve this. She said it was stressful working for SGA president Vasif Durarbayli. She said she was interested at first in what he would bring to the table as a new addition to the government but said there was a learning curve for Durarbayli since he was new to SGA.
Hamilton said Durarbayli was unfamiliar with SGA’s procedures and traditions, and his expectations and ideas were never clear to members of the group. This made it difficult for members to perform their duties.
“I felt a lot of pressure to do big things very quickly, but there was very little communication from him,” Hamilton said. “There was also little willingness to learn those processes. Any ideas that I, or other members had, were constantly demeaned and criticized.”
Durarbayli was elected president of SGA with a 47.29 percent of the vote in the late spring elections of 2017. Serving as SGA president in the fall was his first experience on Webster’s SGA team. Going into SGA, Durarbayli had a vision for improvement and action with less concern over reputation and procedures.
“It was tougher than I thought,” Durarbayli said. “I entered to the diverse environment with everyone having different opinions, and finding a common language was really tough for me. I had a different view on how things should have worked in SGA.”
Durarbayli said he only completely shut down an idea once. He said SGA members wanted to use advertisement money for tote bags with an SGA logo. Durarbayli argued their advertisement
should be the quality of their work, not simply a logo on a bag. He told them they should not use money coming out of student activities fee to advertise for SGA in that manner. Durarbayli said students will notice SGA for its accomplishments.
Durarbayli advocated instead for having outside recreational products on campus for students to utilize. Durarbayli said he would rather invest the money SGA has on items the students can use.
Mertz said numerous SGA members explained their want to have the bags and cited how in the past those bags helped SGA start a conversation with students. However, she said, Durarbayli did not provide much reasoning to reject the idea.
“It was highly discouraging,” Mertz said. “As this was one of the first experiences this executive board had together.”
Improvements have no limits, according to Durarbayli. He said he is always asking members for ideas and projects to work on. He said he is only interested in improving student life in whatever way he could. He said SGA members would focus more on traditions and the long reputation of SGA, but not on action.
Durarbayli said SGA faced some internal issues in the fall semester. He did not disclose details but said SGA spent a lot of time trying to resolve these issues, which in turn slowed improvements.
“I invested so much in this, and I want something to happen,” Durarbayli said. “I feel like I push to make fast decisions, but we have how many months? Less than ten months to make some change. If we make decisions in 15 days, what will we achieve?”
SGA advisor, Jen Stewart, said overall SGA operated like it usually does with the same structures and procedures. She said SGA had a large number of new members in the fall semester, and there were varying leadership styles in the group.
“There are very different styles [in leadership] and I think it’s creating a lot of the tension,” Stewart said.
Hamilton started student teaching earlier this month for her major, choral music education. She said with her new student teaching program, SGA’s stress will be too much to handle in addition to not having enough time for both.
“I knew it would be best for my mental and emotional health to leave SGA and focus on my student teaching,” Hamilton said.
Durarbayli said he was surprised about Mertz’s resignation. He said although they had different opinions in many subjects, he valued her work.
Durarbayli said SGA needs to move forward because there is still more work to be done. He also said the transition will be difficult with Hamilton and Mertz leaving.
“It probably won’t be an easy process because they were really experienced members of student governments,” Durarbayli said.
According to the SGA constitution, the president makes an appointment for any positions that are left midyear. This appointment is then confirmed in the gene
meeting by votes. Durarbayli nominated Zoe Burton for vice president at SGA’s closed meeting last week.
Durarbayli said Burton did a great job during the fall semester in organizing events and was helpful in improving the quality of SGA’s work.
“I prefer someone to be vice president that I have good communications with,” Durarbayli said. “[Burton] is a hard worker so I think she has those qualities and I’m going to appoint her as my vice president.”
SGA held their scheduled general body meeting on Tuesday and confirmed Burton’s appointment as vice president. SGA also appointed David Gunderson as secretary, Shevon Fernando as senator of the business school, Aathif Shamail as student organization liaison and John Wallis as senator at large.