Highlights from the SGA Address

Student Government Association Hosts 3rd Annual Address

By Vee Glessner, Chief Copy Editor

On the evening of Thursday, Nov. 19, the Student Government Association held its third annual SGA Address. Marred by the impacts of the ongoing pandemic, the event was more private than it had been in the past, but was well-attended by nearly 50 select students, faculty, and staff. 

The SGA Address took place in the Lower Hangar, which had been adorned with greenery and formally decorated. The room was dotted with tables, each divided into four settings by the plastic partitions the student body has come to expect when dining on campus. Sodexo catered a buffet of Italian foods for the dinner guests, who also received an SGA branded mug and beanie.

SGA President Melea Tucker began the event with his speech. Before diving into the details of SGA’s work, he took time to express gratitude to faculty, staff, and the student body. “Students, earlier this semester I told you to power through the storm. That is: together as one mind, one body, and one family, and as long as we uphold our student integrity and accountability, we will prevail through any obstacle that is thrown at us. I am beyond proud of you all.”

“One mind, one body, and one family” is a new motto the SGA had coined this year and used throughout the night to reiterate the importance of sticking together through challenging times. Tucker went on to describe what he and the student government had been up to in the year marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting their internal changes. “The SGA is under the process of reasassing its entire process this semester and will change the standards for how the future SGA carries itself,” said Tucker.

Tucker passed the freshly-sanitized microphone off to Vice President Timmy Casnellie, who had also been the leader in organizing the event and would serve as the master of ceremonies for the evening, to introduce Chancellor Dr. Anette Karlsson. She said, “We can’t ignore talking about the pandemic. I want to thank each and every one of you here because if you were not playing your individual part in this, we wouldn’t be here today.” Dr. Karlsson also emphasized that although we all hope to return to a semblance of “normal” soon, students shouldn’t let the hard year weigh them down: “In the meantime, do the best you can to continue to be good students and be yourself.”

After a dinner break and some plexiglass-separated socializing, President Dr. Barry Butler made a pre-recorded video appearance with some remarks for the event. “We’ve had close to 30,000 hours of classroom, face-to-face time with effectively no transmission [of COVID-19],” he announced. President Butler also thanked the students, faculty, and staff for their contributions to the safe and successful reopening of the campus.

Dean of Students Dr. Rhondie Vorhees spoke next, emphasizing the effort that the campus community has put into returning in-person. “This wasn’t what we were expecting, but what’s coming through for me so clearly is the students’ positivity and them looking forward to the future. Out of challenges rise opportunities,” Dr. Vorhees reflected. She also commented on SGA’s activism in pushing for a safe, in-person return to classes and thanked the council for its diligence.

Faculty speakers Emily Bauer, head of the Department of Student Engagement, and Sarah Nilsson, the head of the Faculty Senate, followed. Bauer spoke on the safe return to student organization activities and the ability for clubs to continue to enrich the student experience, while Nilsson praised the unprecedented coordination and cooperation between the SGA and the Faculty Senate that the current council had initiated. 

Vice President Timmy Casnellie spoke next. He made a point to thank the SGA council for its long and hard work, noting that they’d collectively put in 1,904 hours of work at the time of the address, 192% of what is required by their bylaws. He discussed his efforts on the council, which mostly pertain to internal affairs and changes. “Tonight, through the entire fall semester we have passed 29 pieces of legislation. Most of them are about different initiatives or budgetary needs that we want to support. There are also interior structures we want to change,” Casnellie said. 

The Vice President also talked about the partnership established between SGA and the Service Organizations. “We need to be working with the service organizations that provide so much to the student body. We need to do this so that we can move forward as one mind, one body, and one family,” he said of the merger which brought representatives from Board of Campus Activities (BCA), Horizons Newspaper, and Student Campus Enhancement Fund (SCEF) into the SGA Closed Meetings. He closed by once again thanking the council and the student body.

The two other executive members of the Student Government Association followed: Secretary Allyson Campbell and Treasurer Hunter Langemo. Campbell discussed her pet project of the semester, SOAR, which had become wildly successful as an initiative to get more underclassmen involved in student government. Langemo recalled his efforts in improving budget processes and engagement, noting that the budget committee had increased by over 400% and commenting on the priorities of the new Student Treasury.

The college representatives then took the stage, discussing projects pertaining both to their specific colleges and initiatives they’d been working for the campus as a whole. College of Aviation representative Ashley Carlson discussed the COA’s new Student Advisory Board and efforts to stronger connect the college to industry, as well as her work on the SGA website, [eaglelife.erau.edu/sga]. 

College of Engineering representative James Bass also reflected his work starting a Student Advisory Board to improve the COE. Bass also thanked Dean Madler for his support of the efforts and outlined his plan to further contribute to the Library committee.

College of Security and Intelligence representative Grace Tevaseu, who also represents the Greek Life committee, explained her work to improve the CSIS and on the new Compassion Initiative, an SGA diversity and inclusion effort. College of Arts and Sciences representative Ryan Dittes highlighted the SGA’s overall improvement efforts, as well as his work within the COAS, on the Bookstore committee, and the Safe Ride program.

Next, the Representatives at Large, a catch-all title for activities benefitting the SGA, spoke. Grant Carrabine took the stage, but Maximiliano Robles was represented by Timmy Casnellie due to an unfortunately-timed precautionary quarantine. Carrabine discussed working on the SGA Dunk Tank and the Student Veterans Organization (SVO) Halloween event. Robles had largely spent the semester working on a food pantry project in partnership with the Salvation Army to support students facing food insecurity.

Lastly, the three Service Organizations wrapped up the updates. Board of Campus Activities director Moe Angulo commented on their unusual, virtual year, including the cancellation by Saint Motel of their first large-scale concert and the turnout on virtual events. Horizons Newspaper Editor in Chief Bria Booth described the new partnership between SGA and the service organizations and how it will help Horizons achieve its short- and long-term goals in multimedia. And Student Campus Enhancement Fund (SCEF) Chairperson Ashley Elliott detailed several of the organizational changes and updates to the campus, including water-bottle fillers, that SCEF had accomplished.

As the ceremony reached its closing, Casnellie presented the annual Faculty/Staff and Student Organization awards. The staff award was presented to SGA Advisor and Financial Services Assistant Director of Business Leah Richwine for her tireless efforts supporting SGA and student organizations through the challenging year. The faculty award was presented to Dr. Jules Yimga, Assistant Professor of Economics in the School of Business, who will be departing the university this semester. The Student Organization award was presented jointly to Eagle Eye, an intelligence and research organization, and The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, which continually engages on campus and develops its members. Read more about the award winners here.

The SGA Address began in 2018 as a “State of the Union” event for the student government to address its student body, providing updates on their work over the past term and what’s to come. This year was different, but the SGA still managed to raise the bar: they turned the event from a casual open meeting to an upscale dinner event and brought as many well-dressed community members together as they safely could during this time.