By Harrison Neville
When I first got involved with The Alabamian back in 2018, I was surprised to discover that we did not do anything to cover SGA senate meetings. I brought this up as a clear lack of coverage, and was immediately given what I assume is the classic response of all understaffed Editor in Chiefs, “that’s a good point, would you like to cover it?”
To my great regret, I said yes.
I hated the SGA beat, and I really didn’t do much to keep my dislike a secret. I found the meetings boring and the senators frustratingly inactive. I resented the way it ate up my time and the way I was the only reporter on staff who had to attend a weekly session. I’d always envisioned journalism as far more exciting than what I was given.
But I never stopped believing that the beat was important, so the following year, when no one else was willing to pick it up, I agreed to do it again. It was probably about halfway through that year that I realized that I actually had grown to enjoy the role I had taken on.
I learned to respect the work that SGA was doing. The senate was always full of members who just sat around and did nothing, but I began to respect those who clearly cared and were putting in the effort.
Which is why this year has been such a disappointment.
As I said, it is perfectly normal that SGA has a large percent of senators who are clearly there just to pad their resume and don’t actually care at all about helping their fellow students. This is normally somewhat counterbalanced by the willful minority that work to actually do something productive.
Normally, it takes SGA a few months before they actually pass any bills or resolutions. This is in part because a good chunk of the senators tends to be new and therefore have to learn all of the rules from scratch.
This year, the SGA Senate didn’t pass a bill until Feb. 24, not counting the approval of the budget. For reference, the previous Senate passed its first bill in September.
Now, obviously, it is not always necessary to pass legislation. Putting forward bills just for the sake of doing it would be ridiculous. That said, the SGA is a group of students in the unique position of actually making improvements to their campus with a very large budget. Few other students are given the opportunity to make the types of campus improvements that SGA is able to, but this year they have wasted their ability.
I understand that we’re in a pandemic and that things are tough for everyone, but ultimately, there is a point at which I don’t care. It is the job of leaders to stand up and act in difficult situations.
All three of the student publications, Montage, The Tower and The Alabamian have managed to find ways to continue to do their jobs despite the restrictions placed upon them by COVID-19. The same can be said for several other student organizations.
A group known as the Student-Athlete Mental Health Committee is working to destigmatize mental health. The various Greek organizations are still functioning under the new regulations. If students can count on and expect these organizations to continue to function and provide a service for them, why should it be any different for the SGA?
Please do not misunderstand, I am not trying to claim that no members of the SGA care about their work or want to do something to invest back into their campus.
In fact, I know that many members of the SGA executive branch, and even a few of the senators, have continued to work hard to serve the community of Montevallo. I have a huge respect for both Thomas Dillard, SGA president and Natalie Seavers, SGA vice president. Both of them are hardworking individuals who are trying their best to work through a difficult situation as they manage all of their normal work through zoom.
That said, we as a student body deserve better than what we have gotten. The SGA has thousands of dollars of budget in which to improve our campus, and thus far they have spent a measly $77.70 for a single bill.
The campus is full of potential improvements, and I am sure that I speak for many students when I say that if I had the amount of money that SGA gets, I could think of a lot of useful things to spend it on.
As students prepare to elect their senators for the next year, they should think carefully about who they want to pick and then hold those representatives accountable to do their jobs and lead.
Harrison Neville is the previous Editor in chief for The Alabamian. He is a fourth-year English major whose hobbies include reading, hiking, cooking and writing. He has previously worked for The Alabamian as a managing editor, distribution manager, copy editor and SGA columnist.