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SGA increases funding for initiatives

SGA Budget (Steven Garcia-Mess) (1 of 2)

The Student Government Association (SGA) doubled the Senate initiatives’ budgets this year from $1,500 to $3,000 to help the organizations better fulfill their missions.

It’s On Us plans to use the extra funds to distribute more stickers, buttons and the like and potentially create a self-defense class. Greater Than hopes to distribute more magnets and educational materials, host more speakers and collaborate more with other student orgs. The SGA Taskforce Against Racism (STAR) plans to collaborate with Northfielders for Justice in Palestine and work with Rankin & Associates Consulting to conduct an equity audit, among other efforts. An equity audit assesses the state of equity and inclusion at an institution.

SGA President Devon Nielsen ’20 and Vice President Ariel Mota Alves ’20 met with several student groups on campus, including the three initiatives, during their campaign last spring. Following discussions with initiative chairs and members, Nielsen and Mota Alves decided to increase funding for the initiatives.

“The common theme through those interviews was that they’re excited to do their work on campus, but they weren’t necessarily receiving the funds or the resources that they felt could allow them to make the greatest impact on campus,” Nielsen said.

The three initiatives address different aspects of student health and well-being. It’s On Us promotes sexual assault prevention, Greater Than focuses on creating a positive atmosphere regarding mental health, and STAR seeks to combat institutional racism and destigmatize the portrayal of race at St. Olaf.

Chair of STAR Joey Dagher ’20 spoke of the relief that the budget increase provides, as STAR didn’t have enough money to host their own events before the change.
“$1,500 is nothing. It is absolutely nothing,” Dagher said. “Now that I have the $3,000 dollar cushion, I can be comfortable spending that, and we might still have money for a workshop and money for the POC gatherings.”

It’s On Us will use the heightened funding to continue their attempt to create a universal concept of consent among students on campus through advertising and distribution of buttons, stickers, tablecloths, balloons and temporary tattoos, Chair Abby Thompson ’21 said.

“We’re very thankful for the current presidents right now, because our increased budget really is going to help us,” Thompson said. “Hopefully that will influence people to come talk to us more and hear what we have to say and learn.”

Thompson also hopes to use funds for the creation of a self-defense class, which she believes is necessary for a safe campus and could be integrated as a Studies in Physical Movement (SPM) course.

It’s On Us hosted Cookies and Consent as their first formal event of the year, alongside tabling in early October. Organizers gave Pause cookies to interested students and created scenario cards about consent.

Greater Than will use its new budget to increase its merchandising resources. These could include magnets in dorms and printed resource cards for members of the Bandana Project, a program where students who have information on mental health resources around campus display a bandana on their clothes or backpacks to signify their willingness to help other students, Greater Than Chair Olivia Prescott ’20 said.

Greater Than also plans to bring in more educational speakers and increase collaboration with other organizations on campus in order to show the “multidimensional aspect of mental health,” Prescott said.

For example, panelists at the Domestic Students of Color Mental Health Panel on Nov. 13, a collaboration of Diverse Initiatives Support Committee (DISC), Wellness Center, STAR and REPRESENT, will discuss how their identities play into mental health.
Greater Than also brought author Shane Burcaw to campus on Oct. 1.

“When we expressed that one of our biggest barriers in providing awareness and helping to end the stigma is money, they were like, more than willing to give us that extra money and so I do think it was kind of needed and I think that where we’re at right now is a good place,” Prescott said.