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SGA announces restructuring

St. Olaf’s Student Government Association (SGA) officially announced a comprehensive restructuring plan for the College’s student governance body on March 10, after the Senate approved moving forward with the restructuring at their March 8 meeting.

The restructuring of SGA will see the nine current branches split into three groups — one student governance group, one programming group, and a Lion’s Pause group. Five existing branches — BORSC, DISC, PAC, SOC, and VN — will fall within the student governance group, which will still be called SGA. ADC and SAC will be enveloped into what will be called the Programming Board, and the existing Pause branch will incorporate MEC to create its own designation under a standalone Lion’s Pause banner. 

Each new group will have its own unique organizational structure, and each will receive a budget allowance that closely mirrors what the current allowances are for the present SGA branches.

Current student government leaders and staff in the Office of Student Activities (OSA) believe the new model will provide needed efficiency to St. Olaf’s event programming. The new Programming Board will expand the number of student positions dedicated to planning campus events, adding nearly 20 more positions than ADC and SAC previously had. As well, the new Lion’s Pause structure will see one co-coordinator dedicated to managing the Pause as a venue, a role that will include bringing musical artists to campus in collaboration with a Concerts Board made up of student volunteers, closely mirroring the current purpose of MEC. 

A significant departure from SGA’s existing structure is how the leaders of these new groups will be selected. Currently, eight of the nine branch coordinators, excluding the Pause, as well as the president and vice-president, are elected positions, with students voting for candidates during spring elections. With this restructuring, the  president, vice-president, and the five branches under the new SGA group will still be elected, but the two directors for the Programming Board and the three executive coordinators for the Lion’s Pause will be hired positions. 

Hiring versus electing student leaders was a point of contention last spring as SGA proposed a new St. Olaf Activities and Programming (SOAP) body. During a town hall meeting on March 2, 2021, several students raised concerns about properly representing the student body if the new SOAP leadership positions — which existed as the elected ADC, MEC, and SAC branches — were hired. 

“It’s something that was discussed a lot,” said SGA President Andy Nelson ’23 about whether the new Programming Board and Lion’s Pause executives should be hired or appointed. “I think the idea is you’ve seen uncontested SAC elections for the last two years, you’ve seen empty elections for ADC the last two years. If people really wanted those roles they would be applying for them and there would be contested elections. They’ve been uncontested for a long time.”

Nelson continued, “I also think you find a lot of people in these programming branches who have skills that you really do need a year or two of experience to know what you’re doing. To go in blind to a programming branch puts the school at a disadvantage for the first couple months because you just don’t know how to do enough of what the job expects you to do.”

Off the back of SOAP’s failure to pass Senate last spring, SGA constructed a Programming Working Group to discuss next steps. Much of the working group’s progress over the summer, fall, and interim translated into the current restructuring plans. 

“If last year’s dialogue showed us anything it was that a directional shift was needed, but the specific direction was not all that clear,” Director of Student Activities Brandon Cash ’16 wrote in an email to the Messenger. “After a year of connecting with students and a number of different working groups, I think we’ve found the right path forward.”

Cash and other OSA staff were a driving force in the development of this new model, facilitating communication between groups and consolidating student feedback.

Senate voted to approve moving forward with the restructuring at their March 8 meeting. Next steps include Senate voting to make the bylaw changes official and the student body voting to approve SGA’s formal constitutional changes.

Cash wrote, “with this restructure, I see both the quantity and quality of the interactions and experiences St. Olaf students have with SGA, the Programming Board, and the Lion’s Pause continuing to grow in exciting ways.”

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