St. Olaf Student Government Association’s (SGA) Senate has decided on six projects to fund this semester after organizing Ole Tank — a play on the popular show “Shark Tank” — to elicit student feedback on areas of campus that could use improvement throughout February.
Ole Tank gave students the opportunity to voice what areas of the campus community should be improved using part of SGA’s Project and Capital Fund by submitting proposal ideas. The categories of improvement targeted by students’ proposals included dorms, bathrooms, green space, and accessibility.
The diversity of ideas and desires from students is reflected in the six proposals Senate ultimately accepted: a sidewalk to J Lot, seating between Steensland and Regents Halls and Old Main, a campus swing set, a program to bring more activities to the Pause, menstrual products in academic buildings, and a Black hair care vending machine.
These six final proposals came from 28 original proposals, which SGA Vice President Michael Paredes ’22 narrowed to 22 executable submissions and then further reviewed to determine finalists. Senate voted on these finalists on Feb. 22, landing on the six projects listed above. Proposals came from every class year and covered an array of different aspects of campus.
“All of the proposals that we ended up reading had to have some long term or project aspect of it. It couldn’t be an event or an investment in an intangible concept that would not get used by the entire student population,” Paredes said. “The next thing that I considered was how much of the budget it would actually use.”
Senate had discretion over which student proposals got approved and which did not, capping the total money SGA can spend on Ole Tank projects at $50,000.
“That 50,000 (dollars) is specifically for the Senate to decide how to use it,” Paredes said. “We’ve had that money since it started for a year and it’s an ongoing conversation on what we should do. At any point of the year, a student is welcome to submit a proposal and I think we have funded one proposal this year and we did a few last year.”
If the $50,000 is not spent by the end of the year, there is no penalty. Rather, remaining funds can rollover to be included in next year’s budget, which is always capped at $50,000. SGA’s Project and Capital Fund is itself only a fraction of SGA’s total $500,000 annual allocation.
“For historical context, the fund has existed for years, although not a lot of students know it’s a resource,” said Director of Student Activities Brandon Cash ’16. “The common goal is transparency and awareness around this fund. So one of the things that I give credit to this year’s Senate and the executive team is crafting again this idea of Ole Tank to say we’re not going to only raise awareness, but really add something special to the fund. We want to make these projects happen and to invest in campus.”
After advertising on SGA’s Instagram story, Ole Tank received over 100 different idea responses from the community. The highest number of views for the story was 597, and students’ stories sharing responses to the advertisement had over 461 views. By Feb 11. Senate received the 28 official proposals through their platform, Oleville.
Of the six finalists, the budget costs ranged from $572 to $19,000. In total, the estimated cost of the six passed proposals is $44,072.
The timeframe for the implementation of these proposals is up in the air.
“It’s an ongoing discussion with a four week horizon at best, if not the entire semester, but the projects have now been decided and the Senate is taking these out to ensure that the students get their proposals,” said Paredes.
While the Senate remains excited for the changes being made on campus this year, they welcome feedback regarding the Ole Tank program.
“Students wanted something and we made it happen” Cash said. “And I think that’s just such a powerful element of a college experience — making change for the place that you all call a home.”
invest in campus in ways that students’ want.
“Students wanted something and we made it happen. And I think that’s just such a powerful element of a college experience — making change for the place that you all call a home,” Cash said.