SGA seeks more participation from women, students in general

Becky Brady, junior in elementary education and Student Affairs Director for Student Governing Association, cheers as Andy Hurtig and Joe Tinker win the K-State SGA election on March 4, 2015 in Kites Bar and Grill. Brady has been the campaign manager for two successful campaigns. (File Photo by Mason Swenson | The Collegian)

K-State’s Student Governing Association has a large gender gap in the student body president position, alongside a minor gap in the senate. Currently, approximately 60 percent of the SGA senate is male and 40 percent is female, according to Bill Harlan, director of the Office of Student Activities and Services and legislative adviser to SGA.

“This is always something that is a concern,” Ava Clark, senior in industrial engineering and SGA chief of staff, said. “However, it is not something we worry about. There has never been a huge issue.”

Since the inception of the student body president in 1946, only four presidents have been female. The most recent was Lydia Peele, who served from 2008-2009, according to the history page of SGA’s website.

Harlan said he thinks it may not be that women lose every time they run, but that they don’t run and that in the most recent elections, the president and vice president teams running for office have almost exclusively been male student pairs.

“I really don’t know the answer as to why women don’t run,” Harlan said. “However, it is something we are thinking about and working on. We have considered asking former female presidents about why they ran, and try to better understand what to do to make it more appealing to women.”

Active participants in SGA feel a need for not just female participation, but more students being a part of SGA across the board, according to Patrick Kennedy, junior in finance and member of the senate.

“We need more participation in general,” Kennedy said. “The senate hearings are not a closed-off kind of deal. Students can come and have opportunities to voice their opinions. They can be granted speaking rights.”

Kennedy said he does see a need for women to participate in SGA, though.

“We have came a long way in 20 years, but we still have a ways to go,” Kennedy said.

Harlan said he believes participation from the student body will spark an interest in more students to run for office in the SGA and lead to more female participation.

“We often take for granted that everyone knows about the opportunities in SGA,” Harlan said. “However, we need to make an effort to identify ways to encourage and make sure we remove the barriers that keep students from participating.”

Those within SGA said they identify opportunities like attending senate hearings, committee meetings and other SGA on-campus events as ways students can become more involved and get to understand SGA better.

“All the resources are available to (students),” Kennedy said. “Be active and voice your opinion. The members of the senate and SGA, in general, are there to represent you. Students need to realize how much of a say they have and not take it for granted.”