By Suneil Avirneni
Hello readers, my name is Suneil Avirneni and I am the Sophomore Vice-President. The reason I ran in the first place was that I saw that the SGA was not working for the welfare of all students and I wanted to try to fix that by getting elected. Before getting into what exactly the SGA’s plans are for this year and what I want to accomplish during my term in the SGA, let’s go over what the SGA is and what it does.
What is SGA? To put it simply, the SGA is short for the Student Government Association. What they do is take a small fee from every student and pool that money together so that it may be used for student events. In addition to this, on its online page, the SGA says that its job is “Understanding the importance of promoting student welfare, representing student concerns and opinions, protecting the best interests of students” and facilitating communications between students, faculty, staff, and administration. The overarching goal of SGA is to improve the lives of students through many avenues using resources, money, and manpower that the students give it.
Now that we know what the SGA is, here is an interview I did with Connor Courtney, Student Body President, about what his goals are for the Fall 2022 and Spring 2023 semesters:
Suneil: So, what are SGA’s plans for this year?
Connor: It breaks down into a few different things. On the one hand, we have normal functioning things. We have elections coming up; we obviously have to elect the whole BOR (Board of Residents) and Senate. That happens in August. After that, we have our first membership meeting. I think in September. With that stuff like the BOR and Senate, they are going to drive their own agendas. They do their own things and their own events. I’ve kind of asked those people to do one initiate/event/thing a month between the two of them. That all has yet to be planned because it is up to them. On my side, I am planning to do a lot of stuff with voter registration and then have a city council forum, hopefully. We are doing a lot more community stuff like tabling. We helped freshmen move in. We did a community dinner, just more stuff out there in the community to listen to people.
S: I have heard rumblings about the alcohol/health amnesty that you and Ezra (Student Body Vice-President) were planning. Can you explain that?
C: It basically just means that if you are in Brushy Fork and you are intoxicated, if you call for medical attention, you are able to, instead of going through the traditional judicial system, you would receive amnesty because you did the right thing by seeking help. Now, there are still medical ramifications; you can still be referred to counseling and you can still be referred to Whitehouse Clinic, but you can’t be expelled from the college.
S: You are still working on GIH (Gender Inclusive Housing). How is that going?
C: That is a two-year rollout thing. I think it is going okay right now. There are some bugs, there are some issues, but that was to be expected when it got passed so late. But I think, for the most part, it has gone okay. It is still really early. I think once we have a full rollout next year, it will be a whole lot easier. A lot of this stuff is administered by Student Life, so we can’t exactly go to the resident halls and tell the RAs what to do. So, a lot of it is in the hands of other people right now. It is generally going okay.
S: Other than the nitty gritty stuff, do you have any particular plans as this is your last year as president?
C: I am going to spend all the money. I updated the SGA website. I can’t publish it yet because it still needs to be reviewed and edited, but it is a lot nicer.
S: Is Gus (Gerassimides) telling you to spend all the money?
C: No, I just want to get rid of it. I want to spend all the money. I made a manual so there is more legacy in terms of setting a precedent and making sure people understand what’s going on. I am writing a President’s Manual which will help my successor. I am thinking about having that Executive Office election earlier so they can be mentored.
Just like our president, I have many goals that I want to accomplish in order to serve the Student Body:
- One of the biggest things that Trayvion (Sophomore President) and I campaigned on was that we would improve Dining Services which is something most students would benefit from. Connor’s administration has done a lot of work on this front, and we are happy to continue working with them and with the dining staff on this issue.
- Another issue that was championed by our campaign was the outreach to students. The idea here was that the student government only has a couple dozen people working for it at any given time. We don’t know the experiences that every Berea student goes through. It is important that the SGA uses its resources to try to see what students who don’t work for the SGA want rather than the SGA being an echo chamber.
- A huge part of our campaign was advocating for better oversight over how SGA’s funds are being used. This is an issue where I vehemently disagree with the position of the current administration. Every single penny that the SGA gets comes from the pockets of students. To say that it must all be spent this year is irresponsible. I do not believe that the Student Body would approve of spending every single penny in the SGA’s coffers. I believe that the SGA desperately needs to be less frivolous with the students’ money so that more of it can be spent improving the lives of Berea College students in a tangible way rather than spending money on trips and retreats for small groups of students.
I have a good working relationship with Connor and his vice-president, Ezra. I consider them both to be my friends. On that note, I agree with much of what Connor and his administration have planned for this year. However, there are a couple of things where we disagree. No matter what, I will fight like hell to give all Berea College students their voice in the SGA.
Feel free to come and let me know about any problems that you might be facing that you think the SGA can help you with. I am always open to listening to the people who got me elected; I work for you. I will always be able to lend an ear. I may not know every single problem that Bereans face because every Berean experience is different, but you should know that I will listen to anyone if they tell me that Berea College has issues that must be solved, and I will do my absolute best to make it right.
If you would like to contact me about an issue or send me hate mail, please send it to: email@example.com