By Shawn Gakhal
As the Student Government Association begins a new year, agenda setting is in order, which means long hours at the head office in WB 322H.
The SGA conducts senate meetings every Wednesday in the Spertus Lounge, which are spearheaded by President Joseph Knotts.
Second in command of the SGA is Daly Tongren, a sophomore, who was recently elected to the position in fall 2013.
Tongren talked at length about the active presence that the group has on campus and what can be done to increase knowledge about the SGA.
“I think a big thing … was when we were getting our signatures to run for these positions in spring 2013,” Tongren said. “There were a couple of people that we ran into to ask if they would sign our papers and give them our spiel, and they didn’t know we had a student government. … We kind of made it one of our goals last semester to make ourselves more known on campus by having more events that people can go to. …They can see us, we can be a presence on campus and people can know more about what we do.”
Chris Mich, a sophomore and student member of the university’s Board of Trustees, told the Torch about the upcoming agenda for the organization and plans for the spring semester.
“At the moment, we’re trying to work on our agenda items for the whole semester,” Mich said. “[We’re] trying to get our committees together. We have four committees — communications, political affairs, academics and campus life. We’ve charged our committees with coming up with agenda items or initiatives that they want to achieve during this semester. Basically, we’re just getting started.”
As the committees seek to come up with their own proposals and agendas, Knotts spoke in depth about each one and what they’re currently dealing with at the political level.
“Each of our committees has kind of separated their own agenda,” Knotts said. “For example, [the] political affairs [committee] have been focused on getting a stronger understanding of Illinois politics to our student body. Then, our campus life is focusing more on creating a better atmosphere for our students here, in general terms. Overall, as a student government, we have a focus on an integrated approach to creating a line of communication between the student body and the administration that has been lacking in the past few years.”
Even though turnout at January’s Student Involvement Fair was relatively low, Tongren stated that SGA felt good about the “students who came by and asked questions,” which she believes will lead to more joining the association.
While active recruitment to the SGA is a goal of the group, another is to contrast the two different Roosevelt campuses via regional political decision-making.
“One of our goals is to differentiate between the Schaumburg Campus,” Mich said. “They want to be separate, in a sense, of being told, ‘This is what we’re doing.’ We might make decisions for Chicago [students], because the people who go to the [downtown] campus end up benefitting from Chicago-based decisions. But Schaumburg is a completely different style of a campus. People drive there, and they might be in different programs, so the governing body over there, — which is SPEED — tend to do things differently than SGA in Chicago. We want to work together, but we still also want them to do what they enjoy doing.”
Although the agenda is still currently being set, Mich said the SGA is working on a new outreach program designed to help students get registered to vote.
“One of the agenda items is getting more students registered to vote for the upcoming elections in 2015,” Mich said. “We might do a vote outreach or registration drive, which is in the works.”
SGA also plans to travel to Springfield, Ill. later this spring to lobby for the Monetary Award Program grant funding, which is designed to aid students with academic-based scholarships and is a major source to students who seek financial aid.
“We’re going to continue to focus on the MAP grant, especially because it took a bit of a hit in the past year,” Knotts said. “So, we’re going to see if we can’t do our part to get that back up, and that’s something that still need a lot of work. But we can definitely learn from our experience last year in being prepared to speak to representatives. There are a lot of representatives that are already on board with us. We need to speak to the ones who aren’t hearing as much of students in higher education.”