Only one of two Atlanta campus Speaker of Senate candidates was in attendance during Tuesday’s first round of Student Government Association (SGA) debates. During the one-man debate, candidate Devante Hill spoke about social events to bridge gaps, “tough love” for student government members and bringing back past traditions. The other Atlanta campus Speaker candidate is Anderson Dorvil.
Bringing Back Plaza
During the Fall 2016 semester, Georgia State administration threw out the Library Plaza due to safety concerns from overcrowding. Hill said he wants to bring back a “better, more inclusive” version of the Georgia State tradition while in office.
“Taking away plaza put a burden on social activities and a lot of the networking that organizations on campus did,” Hill said. “Organizations would table in plaza and students would walk through to watch everything that was happening, organizations would have fundraisers, they would inform people of events that were coming up.”
But Hill said one student complaint about Plaza was the strong presence of historically-black, Greek fraternities.
“More inclusive, I would say, is making sure that other organizations know that they can come to Plaza,” he said. “They can table and they don’t feel like the black Greek community is overpowering in that environment.”
In regards to safety concerns, Hill said that informing students about the hazard created by overcrowding and keeping “a pathway so people can get out” would prevent any issues.
The Speaker of the Senate’s main responsibility is to oversee senator’s actions.
During the Fall 2016 semester, six senators were dismissed from SGA for violation the meeting attendance policy spelled out in the organization’s bylaws. Following their dismissal, SGA pushed for a “mandatory attendance policy” which still allowed for a few absences. Hill said that policy is “lenient.”
“Three meetings per semester being missed – that’s a pretty lenient rule there,” Hill said. “It’s what you signed up for, you have to attend these meetings. If I can do anything in my position to make the meetings more fun or interactive… taking a breather, getting a water break, doing social activities… I’m not a boring guy, I know these meetings can be pretty painful and that’s probably why some students don’t want to attend.”
He added that “snacks never hurt” when motivating senators to get involved.
Hill also said his priorities include making sure “every voice is heard” and every decision is “justified.”
“If there are too many disagreements or too many arguments, that’s not productive. Just making sure everyone gets their say,” Hill said. “Also, providing solutions in an efficient but timely manner, making sure we can always justify decisions, not just making that decision because a higher up has been advocating for it.”
Hill said that it is each SGA member’s responsibility to stay informed about issues, and that he plans to discuss “bring up” these issues regularly during senate meetings.
“Some people need tough love, sometimes they need to be put on the spot in the middle of senate meetings,” Hill said. “Not to embarrass them, but to see if they’re informed about the important topics or issues that we have going on.”
Campus safety is an issue guaranteed to be discussed during Georgia State SGA debates. Hill expressed optimism that familiarity will breed increased safety, suggesting social events with Georgia State police (GSUPD) and students.
“I actually have plans to have events to actually collaborate with GSUPD, to make sure students know who the officers around the campus are so you’re not just strangers,” Hill said, adding that he had a positive experience getting to know a GSUPD officer himself. “An event where students can come and actually meet the officers to improve safety and maybe do like social building activities just to break that wall between officers and students.’
Currently SGA meeting information is available on the organization’s website and The Signal covers each meeting in an article published the following week. However, many students remain uninformed about SGA’s activity. Hill said emailing the info could help solve that problem.
“If reports from the meetings are sent out in an email, students who are interested in it can see it up inside their email and be able to peruse through it,” Hill said. “Some students don’t really know where to look to learn about what happens at meetings, and I think that’s not okay. So really putting it in their face instead of having them have to find it on the website would be a solution to that.”
Executive Board + Senator Relationship
During the debates, President of the SGA Election Commission, Usra Mohamed, said that in previous SGA administrations, “there’s always been sort of a disconnect between your executive board members and your senate members.” She asked Hill how he plans to bridge that gap.
“I would say doing more social events, just going out to eat and events like that so E-board members can get to know the senators more,” Hill said. “I feel like if we tell them to come out to other events… then the Senators and the e-board members can have a good relationship.”