TCU’s Student Government Association, much like the U.S. government, can be very confusing for those not directly involved in it. Countless students and groups constantly collaborating to reach a single common goal make it difficult to understand just how SGA works.
In its simplest form, SGA is composed of three separate entities working together. This includes the House of Student Representatives, the Cabinet and theCrew.
The House of Student Representatives
According to SGA President Joshua Simpson, SGA broadly represents students while the House of Representatives is the collective official voice of the student body.
“The goal of the House of Representatives is to advocate on behalf of students to fulfill certain ideas,” Simpson said.
Some of these ideas have changed the university dramatically, such as wireless internet, study pods in the library and fall break. Successful initiatives like these have first passed through the House of Student Representatives before put into effect, he said.
In addition, Simpson said the House can fund various initiatives.
“[SGA] has funded research for the College of Science and Engineering. Legislation we passed resulted in the administration bringing back funding for that college,” he said.
Who they are:
The House of Student Representatives is a select group of roughly 60 annually elected student representatives who come together on a weekly basis from all areas of campus.
For each class, there are two student representatives. The remaining spots are filled by representatives from each of the eight colleges across campus.
· Class of 2013
· Class of 2014
· Class of 2015
· Class of 2016
· Honors College
· Neeley School of Business
· Harris College of Nursing and Health Science
· College of Communication
· AddRan College of Liberal Arts
· College of Science and Engineering
· College of Fine Arts
· College of Education
The number of representatives per college is determined by the size of the college in relation to the student population. The Neeley School of Business has the most student representatives, being the largest college on campus. The AddRan College of Liberal Arts comes in second.
Each of these representatives is also required to serve on one of five committees.
1. Dining Services Committee
2. Academic Affairs Committee
3. Student Relations Committee
4. Finance Committee
5. Elections & Regulations Committee
“Their goal is to work on projects and to create legislation that relates to the name of their committee,” Simpson said.
Lauren Sharp, vice president of Internal Operations, explained that each committee meets on a weekly basis, focusing intently on its area of campus.
According to Sharp, Student Relations is a relatively new committee.
“They focus a lot on anything that students interact with besides dining,” she said.
Their main purpose is to collect survey information about students’ general perception of the university, she said.
Once the committee has information from these surveys, they take the feedback and delegate it among the other committees.
“[Student Relations] gathers a lot of information for student government,” Sharp said.
In addition, the Student Relations Committee has the ability to change and add things to campus, such as the bike repair station by the University Recreation Center, she said.
The Finance Committee works directly with Treasurer Cody Westphal in allocating $100,000 of the SGA budget amongst student organizations through the Activities Funding Board. Once the treasurer creates the budget, the board distributes $70,000 in the fall semester. The remaining $30,000 is reserved as a "back-up" fund to distribute throughout the year.
Anything that relates to student curriculum falls under the Academic Affairs Committee. During the past years, this committee has had a hand in adding majors or minors to the university. Academic Affairs is also involved in obtaining research grants, such as a recent grant given to the biology and chemistry department of the College of Science and Engineering.
Sharp said the new scantron program that supplies teachers with testing materials to give to students was put into place by the help of the Academic Affairs Committee. She said the program took over 11 months to get to where it is now.
The Elections & Regulations Committee works with the SGA constitution and student body code. According to Sharp, any bill or resolution that passes through House must first go through this committee in order to ensure that it follows the Student Body Code.
In addition, this committee deals with all things election-related, she said. This includes background checks on the candidates and their campaign processes. If a seat in the House becomes available, the Elections & Regulations Committee is also responsible for interviewing applicants to fill that seat.
The final committee, Dining Services, has a large hand in the university’s on-campus eateries. Sharp said when the Dining Services Committee meets with the directors of Market Square, their ideas often have a quick turnaround rate. While they largely work within Market Square, the Dining Services Committee also tackles complaints about the cafes on campus, such as Bistro Burnett in the library.
Simpson said non-SGA students are permitted to serve on a committee except the Elections & Regulations and Finance committees if they would like to be more directly involved in student government.
The House Executive Board, composed of elected chairs from each committee and the Speaker of the House, gathers every week to review proposed legislation before it comes through the House.
Speaker of the House Luke Harville said the board actively works to encourage House member participation and retention.
“We act more as an administrative role,” Harville said.
Simpson said if students want something, need funding for a program or if they notice a problem on campus, SGA will assess the issue. When it is presented to the House of Representatives and is passed in the form of a bill or resolution, it is sent to the proper administrators to handle.
“There isn’t anything House can’t do,” he said.
The Cabinet is comprised of the four student body officers, the Speaker of the House, two Frog Aides liaisons and a liaison for theCrew.
Each week, the Cabinet meets to discuss the week’s agenda. Simpson explained that this includes tying loose ends from previous discussions, talking about progress on projects, assessing future goals for SGA and taking a vote on any substantial decisions.
Who they are:
Frog Aides Liaisons
Frog Aides, a year-long program held by SGA, gathers close to 40 freshmen through an application process to teach them various skills that relate to student government. Co-Director Will Hardy said that the students spend the first semester learning about effective programming, servant leadership and developing their own leadership style.
Co-director Jennifer Villyard said the organization facilitates meetings that focus on the House of Student Representatives, theCrew and the Cabinet.
“The leaders come and talk about their branch of student government, then the freshman either do a mock House bill or Crew event,” she said.
The second semester of the program focuses on the leadership skills the freshmen are developing, and holds an event called "Big Project." The students are given money as a group and are expected to give it back to the university in a way they see fit.
Simpson explained Frog Aides as “crafting leaders at TCU whose hearts are really in the right place, who are doing things not for themselves but to benefit the community.”
Hardy said he and Villyard, assisted by an executive team of upperclassmen, are in charge of the logistics of Frog Aides throughout the year as well as creating the curriculum for the first semester. As directors, they act as the liaisons for SGA and the Frog Aides program.
Student Body Officers
1. President Joshua Simpson [Sherman, Texas]
Simpson, a senior political science and entrepreneurial management double major, said his role as president is not necessarily about making decisions but rather planning. He said it is his job to help align the organization’s activities with its strategic purpose.
“I try to be the type of president who is very strategic and thinks at a macro-level and guards relationships,” he said, adding that it is his job to collect information before he comes to any conclusion. “The president has to be encouraging and motivate [the] House and the people of SGA to work towards a vision. To be positive and optimistic while being realistic.”
2. Vice President of External Operations Graham McMillan [Colleyville, Texas]
By May, McMillan, a junior political science major, will have served a year and a half in the position of VP External. The position itself is relatively new, he said, being in its second year of existence.
“I get to work with the city. I’m on the Chamber of Commerce, and I get to work with the mayor in handling affairs that are external of TCU student population,” he said.
With his experience last year, McMillan said he found out that his role is more internal-external to where he can still work with the city but also work intently on student representation.
“For me in my role, that looks like going to student organizations and saying, ‘What can we do for you guys?’” he said.
Ensuring that student representatives accurately represent each organization will be vital this year, he added.
3. Vice President of Internal Operations Lauren Sharp [Omaha, Neb.]
Sharp, a junior marketing and entrepreneurial management double major, said the role of VP Internal has been developing over the past few years.
“This semester I’m taking the approach of restructuring the communication and internal workings of student government,” she said.
As head of the marketing team for SGA, Sharp said she oversees the SGA website and Facebook page and sends out monthly informational emails to the study body. SGA’s goal of raising the amount of student voters to 100 percent is also high on her list of priorities this semester. In addition, Sharp works on committees with university administration, communicating with the chancellor and vice-chancellor.
“I do the communication side of student government," she said, "within student government and within administration.”
4. Treasurer Cody Westphal [Friendswood, Texas]
Westphal, a sophomore business and economics double major, said his biggest job as treasurer is to create a new budget for the next year. Westphal said that it means it is his job to take the roughly $700,000 that SGA accumulates from student fees and allocate it in a budget. By mid-semester, he said he needs to have the budget ‘where it needs to be’ for the coming year.
“I have to do that by talking to everyone,” he said. “My angle this semester is really going to focus on student feedback and guidance on how the money should be spent.”
Westphal said it is important to not necessarily go off the past budget but to focus more on what students want right now.
5. Speaker of the House Luke Harville [Houston, Texas]
As Speaker of the House, Harville, a senior political science and strategic communication major, said he acts as the presiding officer of the House of Representatives.
“I have a broad number of duties as Speaker that range from guiding the legislative process to member development,” he said.
In addition, Harville acts as the liaison between the House and the Student Body Officers. He said he is constantly going between meetings, ensuring effective communication between the House and the Cabinet. As Speaker, Harville is accompanied by the parliamentarian and administrative assistant.
The Plan for 100
This semester, Simpson introduced a new plan for SGA to focus on called "The Plan for 100."
The goal of the plan is outlined as “to create a transparent, purposeful, inclusive and effective SGA by the start of the 100th session that represents 100 percent of the student body.”
“Students as a whole do not feel comfortable using SGA,” Simpson said. “Ultimately, that points to not how can we make students communicate with us, but how can we better communicate with the students.”
He said the average student does not understand how SGA works or what a bill means but rather cares about the end result.
“I think what SGA can do more is focus on the end result and make sure that our processes allow us to achieve that result in a timely, effective manner,” he said.
The four values – transparency, purposefulness, inclusiveness and effectiveness – are what everything SGA does is based around the semester, Simpson said. For example, weekly Cabinet meetings minutes are now available for all students to view in order to promote transparency.
On Jan. 29, SGA passed "A Bill to Foster Direct Communication with Students," allowing three students five minutes each at the beginning of every House session to speak to the House of Representatives.
Simpson said this is the first step in better allowing students to use the House as a forum to voice their thoughts and ideas.
He added that the second step in more effective communication will be two student forums that will allow students to talk about diversity at the university and the SGA budget. These forums are scheduled for various times throughout the semester.