The St. Olaf Student Government Association (SGA) proposed a new branch — St. Olaf Activities & Programming (SOAP) — on Feb. 16. at their weekly Senate meeting. Following a virtual town hall on March 2, the student senate voted against implementing SOAP as an SGA branch.
The proposed branch aimed to combine the current branches of the After Dark Committee (ADC), Music Entertainment Committee (MEC) and the Student Activity Committee (SAC) to facilitate social programming and student leadership within the college.
This absorption of three branches into one has been met with mixed reviews from SGA officers and students alike.
A major point of contention in the proposal was the new hiring process for the co-coordinators and its potential to limit student democracy. Rather than being elected by the student body, the co-coordinators would go through a hiring process, similar to that of co-coordinators for the Lion’s Pause.
Students at the town hall expressed concerns about the potential danger in eliminating an election for such a large position, and the precedent it sets, “there is no point in having a student government if the positions are not elected,” said Logan Graham ’22 at the town hall.
Originally, Political Awareness Committee (PAC) was proposed to be combined as part of the SOAP transition. However, there were concerns that the current bylaws and mission statement would interfere with PACs work surrounding political dialogue.
The idea for SOAP came after an initial brainstorming session between Associate Director of Student Activities Brandon Cash ’16 and former Assistant Director of Student Activities Steve Romenesko on how to improve upon the existing SGA model.
The proposed model aimed to provide a more efficient and expansive way to plan events across campus.
The decision to hire rather than elect coordinators came from an increasingly low voter turnout and student involvement in SGA elections. Those in support of SOAP see it as a way to ensure those in the position are able to do the job successfully, have experience and are passionate about event planning.
Hiring co-coordinators rather than electing them aims to increase accessibility for leadership opportunities and ensure a smoother transition, Cash said.
“Running in an election can be incredibly daunting and can restrict a lot of talented and wonderful people from participating in SGA,” said Gretchen Ellis ’23, student life senator.
Members of the Senate and the SGA executive team hoped the proposed model would solve the ongoing issue of low student turnout at SGA sponsored events as well.
“This combination has been in the works for a couple of years now to address some consistent hiccups within campus programming such as a decentralized calendar, programming gaps and the lack of a programming model,” Cash said.
Coverage of SOAP is ongoing.