SGA fosters transparency with online database, open documents

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    After hearing feedback from students saying they felt they did not have a voice in Student Government Association last semester, Lauren Sharp, student body vice president for operations, said she wanted to work with House members to become more inclusive.

    Part of that inclusiveness effort, Sharp said, is creating projects to show transparency and making more readily available resources for students to keep track with what SGA is doing.

    One of those projects has been underway since last semester’s elections – a database that would provide a list of all projects within the organization’s 99th session, detailing project managers, completion status, impact and general information, she said.

    The database would also hold information about issues that have already been looked at in SGA meetings as well as ideas and information from various organization members’ meetings with administration and staff on campus, Student Body President Joshua Simpson said.

    Sharp said it is a priority to show students where their money is going.

    “Since we do hold [students’] money, it’s only fair to tell them what we’re working on,” Sharp said. “It’s really important to show students about their student government and let them know what we’re doing.”

    Sharp said she began to collect information on current projects at the SGA meeting on Feb. 12 and is underway with gathering a paper database until the online resources become available through the university's IT department.

    The database is a valuable resource for students to keep tabs on the organization and gather necessary information to ask any questions they may have, Simpson said. The database would also allow students to give direct input to project managers.

    “I hope that [the database] helps members of SGA really think through projects and set goals early on in the semester, so they can see those ideas come to fruition,” Simpson said. “Secondly, we want to be as transparent as possible about the things we’re working on, and I want that information to be accessible for those that want to see it.”

    Another focus in the current session is maintaining a binder with hard copies of meeting minutes. The binder is available in the SGA offices behind the Brown-Lupton University Union Information Desk, Speaker of the House Luke Harville said.

    Harville said legislation is available at the SGA website, and any student can enter the offices and check out the binder in order to flip through its contents.

    He said since student interest in viewing SGA documents has been low in the past, he and other members of the House wanted to increase student awareness of the organization’s efforts to provide as much information as possible.

    “I want people to get excited about their SGA,” Harville said. “I want people to ask questions, get involved, come to a house meeting and really start to ask questions of their representatives to kind of take ownership of SGA.”

    SGA is a large advocacy group on campus and is the perfect venue for students to take initiative on changes they want to see happen at the university, he said.

    There had always been an attempt to make project information, minutes and legislation more easily accessible to students since his time in SGA, but the organization lacked the technology to create a one-stop destination for all three, he said.

    Now that the technology is available, Sharp said she hopes the availability of the database, minutes and legislation draw the student body toward a functioning relationship with SGA.

    “My goal is for any student on campus to know where to go if they have an issue and feel comfortable with sharing their ideas,” she said. “So coming to meetings, letting us know what they think of what’s happening on campus and just knowing who their representatives are [helps] because our purpose in SGA is representing the student body.”

    The database, minutes and legislation will also be available through the SGA Facebook page.