SGA Special Committee on Membership addresses proportional representation, chair says

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The Special Committee on Membership presented legislation on March 8 designed to restructure the intern program and voted to favorably return the bill for final action at the general Student Governing Association meeting on Thursday.

The committee, which was established in the spring semester of the 2015-2016 Student Governing Association senate term, was meant initially to address vacancies within the governing body.

Stephen Kucera, graduate student in accounting and student support director, was selected to serve on the inaugural committee, which formed in March 2016. Kucera said the ultimate goal of the committee is to “make student government more accessible to students.”

Ryan Kelly, sophomore in civil engineering and committee chair, said while there has been a shift in the reasoning behind the committee, the goal has always been to establish proportional student representation “as prescribed in the constitution.”

“The overarching goal has always been, for these three terms, addressing the disproportionate membership that we have in student senate,” Kelly said.

In the early months of the spring 2018 semester, Kelly said the special committee focused primarily on the Accelerated Fellowship Program, which was a four-week informative crash course that served as a link between the student body and SGA.

Kelly estimated that 15 to 20 percent of the new senators elected to serve in the coming term participated in the AFP.

“I think that us focusing specifically on the means by which we educate K-State students on the functions of student government has really made us a lot more effective,” Kelly said.

If the bill passes through student senate, the new intern program would offer three identical five-week courses throughout the academic year to give information about the functions of SGA. Upon completion, interested students would have the decision to continue working with SGA and take on intern roles similar to those of the current program. Interns in the second phase would be assigned to a rotation between one of the three SGA branches and given a mentor.

“The intent behind making the intern program more accessible is that we can start to have buy-in from groups that don’t necessarily fit the mold of what traditional interns have looked like in the past,” Kelly said. “I think that in time, what we will see is more engagement and more advocacy via Student Governing Association.”

Jordan Kiehl, chief of staff and junior in industrial engineering, served as the intern coordinator in the past and said she believes the new program would allow students “to understand the greater picture of SGA.”

“You can kind of understand the bits and pieces a little bit more because you’ve had those five weeks where you’ve talked about each little part of SGA and what it mean[s] for the whole,” Kiehl said.

Moving forward, the future of the committee remains unclear as the 2017-2018 senate term is close to adjourning. The committee, since it is not standing, must be reauthorized upon recommendation of current committee members.

Additionally, Kelly said requesting permanent establishment of the committee “is not an avenue being pursued.”

Kelly said he believes the success of the committee hinges on the “flexibility” and “mobility” afforded to a special committee.

“Being able to address the disproportionate representation that we have in student senate in any means that we see fit has been beneficial this term,” Kelly said.

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Kaylie Mclaughlin
My name is Kaylie McLaughlin and I'm the Editor in Chief of the Collegian. I grew up just outside of Kansas City in Shawnee, Kansas. I’m a junior in digital journalism with a minor in French and a secondary focus in international and area studies. As a third generation K-Stater, I bleed purple and my goal is to serve the Wildcat community with accurate coverage. I am fueled by a lot of coffee and I spend my (sparse) free time watching stand-up comedy.