Column: SGA president-elect Owens should start small

Presidential candidates usually publicize their goals before they get into office. These goals are often inflated, but they drift in the direction of the candidate’s mission. Riley Owens, SGA president-elect, is not shy when voicing the need for strong change; however, his ideas may be too far detached from the reality of what SGA can accomplish.

Take his goal for making access codes free for students so they don’t have to pay for access to homework, for example. As a student, I would love to see that happen and I agree it would be useful for everyone. As someone who is familiar with SGA processes, I don’t think it will happen.

A quick look at the bookstore can find that the cheapest access code available is $16.99, keeping in mind that most average around $100. The total student population for Fall 2017 was 8,671 core students (current enrollment is stated to be 12,071, but 2,236 of those are dual credit or concurrent enrollment students and 1,164 are academic partners). That would put the total cost for one access code for PNW student for a single semester at around $167,000. It would be a huge cost for the university to repeatedly cover when we’re in a deficit. Not to mention, it would be near impossible to phase access codes out of cirriculum.

Don’t get me wrong; I think the students need someone who has high hopes of changing things for the benefit of students. The bottom line is the need to separate what Owens wishes could happen in the next year and what he can actually accomplish.

Owens and Dustin Thibideau, SGA vice president-elect, said themselves that change does not happen overnight and that there are processes to everything. But, in this case, is it even a process that can be accomplished?

Although the initial ideas Owens has voiced may find little in the way of realistic support, his placement on the Westville campus may aid in representing those students. While there’s still an undercurrent of grumbled feelings about the Westville campus being left out, this presidency will provide a unique opportunity for those students to voice their opinions and see their feedback be put toward positive action.

I do, however, look forward to seeing how Owens will spend his time at the Hammond campus in order to connect to the students there. For the upcoming year, Owens must show he can represent the students from the Westville campus – which has 26 percent of the core student population – and the students from Hammond. While his and Thibideau’s platform is equal representation, I think both need to spend time on either campus in order to truly put what will best help both sides into perspective.

Every recent SGA president has had a major task ahead of them. In the 2016-17 year, presidents Melissa Sida-Diaz and Zachary Jakubowski had to work together to create a system for a unified SGA. Current President Daquan Williams, for the 2017-18 year, has had to lead SGA after unification. That brings me to Owens and his claim for unity and transparency. For a president-elect to bring these characteristics to the forefront, fundamental changes will need to be made to the way SGA operates and communicates with students.

A glance at the organization’s website shows a lack of meeting minutes, which would show resolutions that have and have not passed. The SGA constitution even outlines that the minutes must be recorded by the chief of staff, which is currently Owens. I suppose anyone who is looking for information can attend their meetings, except that their meeting schedule can’t be found anywhere publicly. A request would have to be submitted to find out when and where meetings are, and for a student organization that wants to include students and be transparent, they sure make it hard to see what’s happening behind the scenes.

While it does fall on the duty of The Pioneer to report on the actions of SGA, students who want to learn more outside of our coverage would not be able to follow the organization’s actions easily without access to resolution documents or committee reports.

At this point, it almost seems like transparency is a buzzword used to communicate hollow statements. The SGA’s Facebook page is barren of goings-on aside from the recent election and a post intended for student organizations about applying for Leadership Travel Funds. Where are announcements about their plans? Where is SGA trying to actively engage students and seek their opinions on issues they are considering to see if students believe the issues are worth the organization’s time, and the students’ tuition dollars, to pursue?

I think that if Owens wants to be an idealist, he needs to start with seeking out the problems students want solved that he may actually be able to achieve. Owens is a candidate with good intentions and large goals, but he needs to work his way up to those goals first if he really wants to serve the students effectively.