A look back on the 2011-12 accomplishments of SGA

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With all the criticism regarding the Student Government Association circulating around campus in recent months, it is worthwhile to highlight many of the benefits SGA provides for the student body.
Mercer’s 25 dedicated senators and eight executive members volunteer countless hours of their time to ensure that students are able to follow their passions, in addition to providing forums for students to connect with each other, their campus and their city.
First and most importantly, SGA approves most of Mercer’s organizations, excluding honor societies and Greek organizations. This year, SGA approved 14 new student organizations, bringing Mercer’s total number of active student organizations to 107.
The majority of student organizations seek SGA approval because it opens the door to key benefits around campus. To reserve rooms, put up fliers, or reserve a table in the Connell Student Center among other benefits. Organizations need SGA approval.
Another advantage of SGA approval is instant access to a portion of SGA’s budget. SGA can spend up to $70,000 on student organizations. This funding is broken down into Bear Grants, Conference and Lodging Funding, and Special Funding.
This year, SGA distributed all of its $37,462 in Bear Grant funding to the 49 organizations who applied. In addition, SGA spent 91% of its $19,538 Conference and Lodging budget to help subsidize 15 organizations who represented Mercer at conferences around the country.
Finally, SGA approved five organizations for special funding, spending $5,082.50 of the $13,000 dollars available. In total, SGA spent $60,324.08 on student organization this year.
Without this funding, most organizations on campus would not have the budget required for students to pursue their passions and interests without  charging significant fees that students either cannot afford or do not want to pay.
Further, without SGA’s ability to distribute funds, it would be financially impossible for students to join several of these groups and Mercer would lack the vibrant community its students currently enjoy.
Four of Student Government’s eight standing committees host campus and city events open to all students. The Heritage Life Committee plans SGA’s major events including Pilgrimage to Penfield, the Christmas Tree Lighting and Founder’s Day. The purpose of the Heritage Life Committee is to “promote and develop the heritage and traditions” of Mercer.  These events were attended by a toal of 1800 students, each of whom received a gift for attending. In addition, the Heritage Life committee played an important role during Family Weekend along with several SGA senators and executive members.
Next, the Macon Connections Committee is charged with planning three events geared toward student engagement with the downtown community.
This year the Macon Connections committee planned the Luck of the Irish festival on St. Patrick’s Day as well as Taste of Downtown in both the fall and spring semesters.  All told, almost 3,000 students attended these events.
The Student Life and Organizational Affairs Committee is not only responsible for representing student organizations wishing to be approved, they also plan President’s Roundtable in the fall and spring.
At each event, 50 to 60 of Mercer organizations’ presidents gather around a dinner to connect with one another. Further more, all the presidents in attendance have the opportunity to ask members of Mercer’s administration questions, express concerns and request changes they would like to see around Mercer.
Finally, the Public Relations and Elections Committee is in charge of marketing as well as planning and running elections. This committee is also responsible for holding the annual trip to Kennesaw to watch the Bears take on the Eagles.
This year over 100 students partook in the event, which included free transportation to the game as well a meal.
This year, Senate offered nine free events with gifts and giveaways for the student body, averaging out to about one a month, in addition to giving out $70,000 worth of financial aid to student organizations. But that is not all SGA has done this year.
The other committees work hard to ensure that Mercer makes the changes students want and provide the programs students desire.
As far as green initiatives, this year Student Government aided Student for Environmental Action in obtaining more recycling bins on campus and revamped the Bear Bikes program.
As far as student services are concerned, SGA successfully lobbied the administration to move spring break to the second week of March instead of the last week of February, as was originally planned. This is in large part due solely to your president, Jordan Locke.
In addition, the senior class will be adding their gift this year, as in years past, due to SGA funding and fundraising.
This year a beautiful clock tower will be built by the new stadium for students to enjoy. Other initiatives completed by SGA this year include increasing the volume of the Bear DVDs collection, providing food for various events like the CIT Finals party, making general campus improvements, holding a faculty appreciation luncheon and working in the Fresh Food Company serving our constituents their meals.
Finally, SGA spent most senate meetings cleaning house, attempting to make SGA more democratic, more transparent and more able to handle controversy.
We expanded the campaign season to one month, expanded qualifications to two days and increased the number of advertisements students were allowed to put up during campaign season.
In addition, Senators Ronnie Davis and former Parliamentarian Gene Mitchell amended the constitution to create a judicial branch so SGA has some oversight by students. Finally, we amended our constitution again, to fix mistakes Senators noticed throughout the year.
Student Government is a very important student organization that provides countless services for students.
SGA requires Senators and Executive Board members to volunteer hundreds of hours of their time. We would not do this if we did not love our school and were not passionate about the issues Mercer faces.
This year SGA spent over $60,000 on students, not counting give-aways and food, hosted nine events and achieved a slew of initiatives as a result of student interests or wishes.
Overall, despite the controversy SGA saw this year, the Senators and Executive Board united as one body to provide students what they needed, give students what they wanted and make our own organization better.

Comments or questions about this opinion can be emailed to matthew.lorin.hickman@live.mercer.edu