Behind the scenes with student government

Originally Posted on Technique via UWIRE

With election season heating up all across the world, it seems impossible to avoid hearing about politics or the government. 

However, for a select group of students at Tech, these governmental activities and cycles are always at the forefront of their minds.

For members of Tech’s Student Government Association (SGA), the activities that come with elections play an especially important role in their work as they run their own government on the daily, albeit at a collegiate level. 

In order to learn more about the work that comes with serving in a legislative body, the Technique met with different representatives from SGA. 

Many  spoke about the challenging work that comes with holding their title, and most also confessed they had never imagined they would be in the position to hold their title of representative. 

It was not until last year that fourth-year NRE Kyle Holstein got introduced to SGA while he was trying to get a bill for DramaTech passed. 

Holstein now serves as a Parliamentarian of the House as well as a representative for the School of Mechanical Engineering.

“I definitely enjoy [SGA] because it’s like we’re designed to argue with each other,” said Holstein, now that he has been an active representative for a while. 

“You do get frustrated with other representatives when you think ‘Why can’t you just see this point like how I see it?’ But that’s just part of the process.”

As a representative, Holstein has the pleasure of advocating for the ME department, but as a parliamentarian, he gets to learn about the small nitty gritty details that allow a large body of government to operate. 

“It’s just something I’ve always been fascinated by — I love knowing the process of how things happen,” said Holstein. 

“I love knowing this is our process and this is how I can help people navigate it to make things happen because a lot of people feel that these kinds of roles are there to prevent people from doing things.”

While the political process is new to many representatives, for others it is a continuation of past work. Third-year LMC Grace Wyner knew she wanted to continue the work she began at her high school’s student government. 

I’m a public policy minor, so it’s a pretty natural way to apply some of those strengths and interests in government through SGA,” said Wyner. 

Wyner is also an active member of the marching band and the Ramblin Reps, a small executive committee that was created within SGA to interact with state and local legislators to advocate for Tech students. 

Wyner has been a member of Ramblin Reps for a year now, but ever since she was appointed as the undergraduate representative of the LMC department over summer, she has taken on a more active role in the House. 

“I feel like LMC is such a fantastic program, and I would love for it to be recognized more,” said Wyner in regards to why she decided to apply for the representative role. 

“The student body sees it as an overly simplified major, and I see that as a misconception… I want to let the rest of the student body see how unique the program is.” 

While advocacy for their relative major’s school is one of the priorities for all undergraduate representatives, establishing and maintaining relationships with the administration is another goal of SGA members.

“The administration is tasked with running the campus and making the decisions. If we don’t have those relationships, then we won’t be in the room when they make those decisions or have those important conversations,” Holstein explained. 

For example, an issue that Holstein strives to resolve concerns the impact of mental health concerns on campus. However, even as a member of SGA and with connections to the administration, there are still obstacles representatives faces to taking any action. 

“It’s unfortunate that we have to deal with administration in regards to stuff like that because they have their own tangled web of networks, approvals and funding issues we need to get through,” Holstein said. 

“There’s also an issue of there being no definitive solution to problems like mental health, but there are a bunch of small little steps you can take.” 

In situations like this, while some students may be discouraged by the current administration and the pace at which things are changing, SGA members urge students to reach out to their respective representatives and state their grievances so that they can bring awareness to those problems during House meetings. 

“Reach out to your representative or someone in SGA and really tell us exactly what you’re discouraged about,” Holstein advised. 

“If the people who can solve the problem don’t know that there are people are experiencing a problem, then it won’t get solved.” 

Despite the frustrations that come with the political process, Wyner focused on the encouraging aspects of making change. 

“There’s a lot of change coming really soon,” said Wyner. 

“It’s very slow because there are so many different parts, especially at a school this size, so keep your eyes out and keep your ears open, but the first thing you can always do is ask a question [to your representative].”

For students looking to resolve their questions, the Undergraduate House of Representatives holds meetings and provides an opportunity for students to address the legislative body in an Open Forum Discussion every Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Smithgall building. Students can also find the contact information of their representatives on the SGA website or attend their office hours for the chance to talk to them in person.  

“It’s just something I’ve always been fascinated by — I love knowing the process of how things happen,” said Holstein.

“I love knowing this is our process and this is how I can help people navigate it to make things happen because a lot of people feel that these kinds of roles are there to prevent people from doing things.”

While the political process is new to many representatives, for others it is a continuation of past work. Third-year LMC Grace Wyner served as a member of student government in high school and knew she wanted to continue her work in college. 

“I’m a public policy minor, so it’s a pretty natural way to apply some of those strengths and interests in government through SGA,” said Wyner. 

Wyner is also an active member of the marching band and the Ramblin Reps, a small executive committee that was created within SGA to interact with state and local legislators to advocate for Tech students. 

Wyner has been a member of Ramblin Reps for a year now, but ever since she was appointed as the undergraduate representative of the LMC department over summer, she has taken on a more active role in the House. 

“I feel like LMC is such a fantastic program, and I would love for it to be recognized more,” said Wyner in regards to why she decided to apply for the representative role. 

“The student body sees it as an overly simplified major, and I see that as a misconception… I want to let the rest of the student body see how unique the program is.” 

While advocacy for their relative major’s school is one of the priorities for all undergraduate representatives, establishing and maintaining relationships with the administration is another goal of SGA members.

“The administration is tasked with running the campus and making the decisions. If we don’t have those relationships, then we won’t be in the room when they make those decisions or have those important conversations,” Holstein explained. 

For example, an issue that Holstein strives to resolve concerns the impact of mental health concerns on campus. However, even as a member of SGA and with connections to the administration, there are still obstacles representatives faces to taking any action. 

“It’s unfortunate that we have to deal with administration in regards to stuff like that because they have their own tangled web of networks, approvals and funding issues we need to get through,” Holstein said. 

“There’s also an issue of there being no definitive solution to problems like mental health, but there are a bunch of small little steps you can take.” 

In situations like this, while some students may be discouraged by the current administration and the pace at which things are changing, SGA members urge students to reach out to their respective representatives and state their grievances so that they can bring awareness to those problems during House meetings. 

“Reach out to your representative or someone in SGA and really tell us exactly what you’re discouraged about,” Holstein advised. 

“If the people who can solve the problem don’t know that there are people are experiencing a problem, then it won’t get solved.” 

Despite the frustrations that come with the political process, Wyner focused on the encouraging aspects of making change. 

“There’s a lot of change coming really soon,” said Wyner. 

“It’s very slow because there are so many different parts, especially at a school this size, so keep your eyes out and keep your ears open, but the first thing you can always do is ask a question [to your representative].”

For students looking to resolve their questions, the Undergraduate House of Representatives holds meetings and provides an opportunity for students to address the legislative body in an Open Forum Discussion every Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Smithgall building. Students can also find the contact information of their representatives on the SGA website or attend their office hours for the chance to talk to them in person.  

Read more here: http://nique.net/life/2019/11/04/behind-the-scenes-with-student-government/
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