President Franklin Patterson promises improvements within SGA in the year ahead

Franklin Patterson was elected SGA President for the 2018-2019 academic year. Photo by Vanessa Johnson | The Signal

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated on June 8 to provide a brief addition addressing what Spotlight’s plans are for the 2018-19 academic year.

With the Student Government Association’s new administration, led by SGA President Franklin Patterson, underway, Georgia State students can expect many changes to come in the year ahead.
With the passage of two new bills in May, SGA plans to not only be more involved with the student body but to also hold their own members more accountable to their respective duties.

According to Patterson, the first bill creates a bylaws committee in order to more efficiently adjust SGA’s constitution since Georgia State’s consolidation of the campuses outside of downtown Atlanta.

“The SGA constitution was actually written kind of quickly, and we realized that there needs to be an opportunity to go back and revise it as needed,” Patterson said.

However, Atlanta SGA Advisor and Director Gail Sutton said that a bylaws committee isn’t new to SGA despite the bill, as there was a bylaws committee in the previous administration under former President Corey Gray.

“We had a bylaws committee that operated in this past academic year, but of course as student leaders change we have to reconstitute the committee,” Sutton said. “The new group will spend some focus time this summer with representatives from all six campuses to continue the review SGA has been working on for some time, which has also led to some of the other changes within the organization.”

Patterson said that this bill will also allow SGA members to have a better understanding of their role within the organization.

“With SGA, a lot of students come in and ask us what exactly we do,” Patterson said. “Same with senators and executive board members. They come in and ask ‘what do we do?’ because what we do is so broad as of right now. That’s something we’re trying to make a little more concrete so our members have better guidelines to work with.”

The second bill establishes a point system among SGA members in an effort to hold members more accountable to their duties within the organization.

“How it works is, for instance, if you don’t respond to an email that’s one point against you,” Patterson said. “If you miss a meeting, that’s three points. So if a member accumulates a certain number of points, they’ll be kicked out of SGA.”

Sutton said the point system originated from the previous bylaws committee and was inspired by a similar system in place for members of Georgia State’s Spotlight program.

“Spotlight, in terms of their executive board, also abides by a point system in that you accumulate a certain number of points if you miss an event or if you don’t follow through on an assignment or if you don’t complete your evaluations,” Sutton said. “Basically, you either did your job or you didn’t do your job. This is a new process for us, as well as a new means for accountability.”

“I don’t necessarily like to use the words ‘discipline’ or ‘structure,’ but essentially that’s what our points system provides for our organization,” William Holley, IV, executive director of Spotlight, said. “It’s a way for us to make sure we are representing Georgia State as well as we can.”

Despite the point system being new to SGA, Sutton said there have been different disciplinary systems in place in the past.

“SGA has had a few different ways of holding members accountable before,” Sutton said. “This bill just formalizes it as well as distinguishes the difference between nonfeasance and malfeasance.”

According to Sutton, the point system is more directly related to nonfeasance, which is determined by whether or not the member in question did their job based on SGA’s own principles.

“There’s limited judgement involved because, even if we may have different philosophies, those cases are simply about whether or not a member did what they were supposed to,” Sutton said. “With the point system, after you’ve accumulated a certain number of points, there’s a warning level, then a ‘last chance’ level, and then a termination level.”

However, Patterson believes that this new system won’t be enforced unless absolutely necessary.

“This second bill is meant for those senators who don’t do their job or are just in SGA for their resume,” Patterson said. “However, this year we’re hoping that everybody will be more motivated to do their jobs.”

As far as planning for the year ahead, SGA intends to have a more active role on-campus in order to grow as a resource for Georgia State students.

“When the consolidation first took place, elections were universally competitive rather than just for the presidential candidates,” Patterson said. “It encouraged competition and people wanted to be a part of SGA. But since then, there’s been a growing lack of participation and more people have been leaving the organization rather than joining it.”

That being said, Patterson hopes that in the new school year the current administration can change the culture surrounding SGA by having a more active presence on campus. Specifically, on June 8 SGA will be involved in an event for incoming freshmen facing financial difficulties called the “First Friday Field Day.”

“SGA plans on being at the First Friday Field Day to try and recruit some of those new students who may be interested in joining one of our committees,” Patterson said.

Additionally, SGA plans on continuing the work from previous administrations, such as improving meal plans and creating a safer environment on-campus, as well as coming up with new goals to work towards based on student interest.

“We want to create a tradition that incorporates all six campuses,” Patterson said. “I’ve recently spoken with William at Spotlight about coming up with a list of goals for us to work on that students from all campuses can vote on. Student involvement is very important to us and moving forward we want to make sure that everyone’s voice is heard.”

Regarding Spotlight’s collaboration with SGA, Holley said that plans are still in the “brainstorming stage” and that students can expect more events for the upcoming year to be announced soon.