SGA Encourages Student Participation, Campus Changes

By Dana Bitto

September 18, 2013

The Student Government Association, a campus group that has faced numerous troubles in recent years implementing changes across campus, has a new president ready to face concerns of the students head-on.

Over the years, SGA has been criticized for being overly optimistic and referred to as a group with little power on campus. This year, however, the organization saw a dramatic change on its executive board, consisting of a sophomore president, a role typically reserved for upperclassmen.

SGA President Cutberto Aguayo was surprised but honored by his peers’ decision to elect him.

“It feels good that people are willing to trust me to represent them,” Aguayo said. “It’s a lot of responsibility.”         

 In the past, Dominican students have questioned the initiatives, or lack thereof, that SGA has been expected to enact across the university. Much attention was highlighted on this issue last year when specific voting percentages from the SGA elections were withheld, even upon request from the Dominican Star.

Aguayo has decided some changes will definitely be made this year, with SGA honing in on ways to entice the student body to become more active with involvement and assertive with their voice on campus.

“I want to be more transparent about student government,” he said. “I want people to know what is going on.”

Increasing the student voice at Dominican is an obstacle SGA publicly acknowledged after a lack of student involvement at Town Hall Meetings last year.

Senior Senator Jacob Storck brought to light some minor changes in publicity that could create a larger student interest in the meetings.

“Relaying [to students] what topics will be discussed beforehand would be helpful so they can point out something that they may want to talk about,” Storck said. “Encouraging students to make it an open forum is a way to help them get their issues sorted out.”

SGA aims to set up projects that focus on gaining student trust and making the Dominican community believe they are capable of handling situations of a bigger magnitude. Although there are no new plans for the option of a smoke-free campus, steps are being taken to determine if the U-Pass will become a part of the tuition.

U-Pass, the CTA transit pass eligible for use during the academic year excluding breaks, would add roughly $100 to tuition for undergraduate and graduate students. Although SGA believes that U-Pass is an incentive for transportation and clearing out the parking jams on campus, not all students are in opposition of the pass. At past meetings, some students have expressed that the U-Pass would add an unnecessary tuition fee that would not be used by students who live in the suburbs or who have a car on campus.

Another student issue that SGA recently helped solve included an initiative allowing students to create class schedules one semester at a time, rather than the whole year. Because of the help SGA provided to the administration, the university now has a policy in which students only register for classes by the semester, not for the entire year. This allows for students to have more flexibility with course selection based on their interests or changes in major requirements. 

Currently, SGA is trying to enforce the approval of students being able to see book requirements during the registration process so that students can gage potential costs for a course before they decide to enroll.

Most importantly, SGA is pushing for renovations to the Underground, a project referred to as “Operation Recreation Center.” The goal of this project is aimed at giving commuters another space to utilize as a lounge. According to Aguayo, the space is under-utilized and quiet. Plans for this project are still in the early stages.

Sophomore commuter Dulce Santillan believes having the Underground as a recreational center could prove problematic.

“It’d be too loud,” Santillan said. “I use the Underground as a quiet space to do homework and study. Plus, there is already the commuter lounge by the bookstore.”  

Any sort of grand opening for a new Underground recreational center will not occur as scheduled, but Aguayo is positive that the project will become more concrete and is indeed possible after stressing what his goals are as president.

“It’s not about having a title,” he said. “If I were in it for the title, I wouldn’t be busy at all. Having the position is essential to getting things done.”
For resident students, new pool and pingpong tables for the Coughlin Commons are also in the process of approval to replace the current aging pool table. Additional recreational items are to be sponsored by other on-campus groups, resulting in name displays and collaboration with SGA.