When Dallas Kline moved to SRU her freshman year, she wanted to find a home away from her hometown five hours away from SRU. After she spoke to a classmate who served as a senator in the Slippery Rock Student Government Association (SGA), she attended a formal meeting and ultimately decided to run as a freshman senator.
“I needed to find a home away from home, and student government became that for me,” Kline said.
It just so happened that her decision to join SGA in fall 2015 would lead her to an executive board position her junior year and ultimately the SGA presidency her senior year.
SGA serves as the representative voice of SRU students. While a restructuring committee is researching a change to the senate for the 2020-21 academic year, senator positions currently represent class level and residence. There are four freshman senator positions, and any other senate positions open after the elections from the previous semester are open to freshmen. Between the four freshmen, two graduate, nine building and 15 commuter senators, there are 30 voting senators.
According to Kline, SGA refers to the acronym “all EARS” to remind themselves of their mission to be enhancing, advocating, representing and supporting students. The responsibilities of SGA and its committees all orient back to this goal.
As the most powerful student leadership group on campus, SGA allocates money collected from the student activity fee in each student’s tuition to fund clubs and organizations. In the 2019-20 academic year, SGA will have a budget of $2.5 million, the largest budget since 2010-11. The finance motions fund new initiative requests for smaller projects and events, such as transportation, supplies and advertisements, and capital requests, which fund more expensive and long-lasting items, such as Macs or musical instruments.
Aside from President Kline, each executive board member serves as the chairperson for one of SGA’s six committees: student and academic affairs, finance, internal affairs, campus outreach, social justice and rules and polices.
Senators are required to sit on one committee; however, students who are not senators are able to sit on SGA committees.
“All students are members of SGA,” Kline said.
The student and academic affairs committee is responsible for issues concerning campus safety, student concerns and other university polices. This past school year, Elizabeth Hernandez, vice president, led the committee and its establishment of the SGA food pantry in the Macoskey Center.
The finance committee reviews all financial requests before recommending them to the senate for approval. The committee is also responsible for the budgeting process for each club and organization that requests funding. For the 2019-20 academic year, the finance committee reviewed 139 budgets.
Internal affairs focuses on unity within the senate, new senator training and fundraising. According to Kline, although this committee typically doesn’t have many non-senators, the committee’s role is essential to SGA’s operations.
“It’s one of those committees I think people don’t think is really important, but it is,” Kline said. “Without internal affairs, we really wouldn’t function as an organization.
“As a junior, Kline was the vice president of campus outreach, the committee responsible for events, marketing and social media management. Chadwick Burdick stepped into that role this past year as SGA partnered with The Grove to host giveaways during select viewings of the SGA Movie Series.
Social justice is the newest committee to join SGA. Adopted as a standing committee on Feb. 12, 2018, the committee discusses social justice issues on campus and ways to support diverse populations on campus.
“Adding that in, I think it sent a message not only to students, but to administration that that’s something we’re really focused on: diversity and inclusion is important to us both in terms of as a senate and for Slippery Rock University,” Kline said.
The rules and policies committee is responsible for amending the SGA constitution as necessary. The parliamentarian, who ensures that the president follows “Robert’s Rules” during meetings, leads this committee.
According to Kline, some students who originally serve as non-senators on committees eventually run for a senate position. She also encouraged any freshmen who are unsure if they want to join to attend a formal or committee meeting to talk to senators or executive board members.
“The first step is getting rid of that fear and coming to a meeting and then just talking, learning what we do, seeing how your interests align with ours,” Kline said. “You can make SGA what you want it to be.”