For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Katie Maxwell. I’ve served on Student Government Association (SGA) for the last year and a half as senator of the College of Fine Arts, secretary, and currently as student organization liaison. Most importantly, though, I am a student advocate. Advocacy isn’t established through a title, but through the actions one takes.
I consider myself an advocate because I will do everything in my power to help another student with whatever issue they encounter. And I make it a point to make myself available for these students. The opportunity to be student advocates is the main reason people join SGA. It’s seen in things like Taylor Snead spending hours in the office to make the budget process more efficient or walking someone through budget policies, Chris Hawk posting his personal phone number in the office for 24/7 access if people have concerns they want to voice, or Taijun Waters making a page as senator-at-large for students to be able to reach him.
I have never seen SGA members be more dedicated to advocacy than they are right now.When I originally set out to write this letter to the editor, the motivation behind it was to respond to previous articles that have been written regarding SGA’s changes to the Student Grant Fund (SGF) bylaws.
I’ll be honest. Initially, I got defensive because of my involvement with SGA and because my personal stance on the issue within SGF. Being a former treasurer of an organization that had to organize an SGF trip, I was against getting rid of advancements. However, I recognize there were reasons to consider getting rid of advance funds.
The concern wasn’t about losing money for the sake of losing money. The goal was to avoid wasting money that other students could use to go on other SGF trips by encouraging fiscal responsibility. While our entire organization was divided on the issue, I believe in my heart that each person had students’ best interest in mind. To me, it seemed like SGA was being made the enemy.
I always tell people I’m not a politician. I don’t have a fancy speech to spin or anything like that. After a lot of careful thought, I can’t say The Journal was wrong to say what they wrote. They’re the voice of the students, and while I didn’t like feeling separated from the student body as a member of SGA, I can’t say I wouldn’t have felt differently if I hadn’t been involved in SGA. It stung to see our constitution quoted to us and to see what was said about Delegates’ Agenda, but I respect the fact that The Journal is doing its best to hold SGA accountable. Even if I don’t agree with what was said necessarily, it’s still the student opinion, which is what matters.
SGA needs to find a way to change the way students view SGA, but we need help doing that. I would never ask students to take me on my word alone on how hard everyone in SGA works. I could go on and on about all the work SGA members do that no one even knows about. However, I will ask students to hold me accountable for everything I’ve said in this letter, to hold SGA accountable on a more individual basis, and to help us improve how we represent students.
From what I’ve learned as a resident advisor, discussing the problem with your peers alone doesn’t solve the issue. They’re resolved by taking them up the ladder. Whatever your concern may be, contact us. Even if we can’t handle your issue directly, the very least we can do is direct you to the place that can. If there’s ever an instance where you feel you have gone through the proper steps with SGA, but aren’t being heard out, email me.
We are here to represent our fellow students. So if you have any ideas for how we can improve our methods of doing that, please let us know. Also, I encourage students to become more involved with SGA as a whole. You don’t have to be elected to get involved. We have a student advocacy committee that works with students all throughout the year more informally than Delegates’ Agenda.
We also have ad hoc committees that can include students outside of SGA and we’re always willing to include more people in our goals. Anyone should feel free to email me about concerns or suggestions they have. All I ask is that everyone keeps in mind that we are on the same team and are here to work together.
All the best,