DePaul University SGA addresses student questions after Yiannopoulos fallout
By Brooke Beatty
June 5, 2016
CHICAGO — On May 24 the DePaul College Republicans brought controversial speaker Milo Yiannopoulas to campus for a lecture on his conservative ideology and its relation to culture today. Yiannopoulos is a technology reporter for Brietbart and self-proclaimed “Internet super-villain”.
According to the DePaulia, this event was a catalyst for protests, racial demonstrations, dialogues about free speech in classrooms and two messages from DePaul President Rev. Dennis Holtschneider. Students took to social media to voice discontent with the DePaul administration and questions whether or not Yiannopoulos should have been allowed to speak on-campus.
The May 24, events and their fallout have brought into question the powers of the DePaul University Student Government Association (SGA). The May 20, election of the new SGA administration leaves the DePaul community with many questions about SGA’s role in campus administration decisions and upcoming initiatives.
Student voices of discontent against the administration and SGA
“It is hard to pinpoint how SGA impacts me,” said Jazmin Nevarez, a DePaul sophomore, “I use the campus safety escort service, the Vinnie Van, and I am a recipient of the MAP Grant, but what power in the DePaul administration does SGA have?” said Nevarez.
According to the DePaulia, MAP Grants are for lower income college students in Illinois. Due to the current Illinois budget impasse, MAP recipients are not receiving the grants they were promised. Last spring, SGA went to Springfield to advocate for grants and has held protests throughout the Chicago area.
Nevarez represents the opinion of many DePaul students. A recent poll through DePaul University Qualtrics asked 123 DePaul students, “Do you know the powers of SGA?” Seventy-six percent of those surveyed chose, “Unsure of the powers of SGA.”
“When I think of my ideal student representation, I want an organization where I can clearly identify the representatives, but also how they impact my DePaul experience,” said Tim Small, a senior at DePaul University.
The scope of SGA’s power
The DePaul SGA website indicates that this 25-person voting body represents a student body of 24,000 students. SGA is the primary organization that plays a pivotal role in the DePaul administration. According to the website, a member of SGA sits on every decision-making panel at DePaul.
Andrew Willett, previous Senator for First-Year Students and newly-elected Executive Vice President for Student Affairs, believes SGA has a core purpose. “Our goal is to represent the opinions of all students. DePaul is a diverse campus. Although an opinion may be in the minority, SGA represents all students,” said Willett.
According to the Director of the Office of Student Involvement, Amy Mynaugh, SGA plays an integral role in the decisions that impact the lives of all students, “SGA has a voice and seat at the table during conversations about tuition, sustainability, facilities on campus, programs, course evaluations, scholarships, and especially this year, with the MAP grant,” said Mynaugh.
Mynaugh believes that the role of SGA touches nearly every DePaul University student. Her role as the Director of the Office of Student Involvement allows Mynaugh to see a different lens on the role of SGA on-campus.
How members of SGA view their role on-campus
According to previous Senator for First-Year Students and two-term Executive Vice President for Operations, Adriana Kemper, junior at DePaul University SGA’s work over the past few years impacts many students, “By going to meetings with the administration on every decision-making level, I have seen how their work their centers around the Vincention mission and the students,” said Kemper.
Kemper was re-elected on May 20, to her second term as Executive Vice President for Operations. According to the SGA Constitution her role is to act as a liaison between students and facilities operations on-campus.
During Kemper’s time on SGA, the organization has extended library hours, advocated for student rights in Springfield, implemented sustainable practices and created a late-night campus safety service, “Vinnie Van”, to take students home late at night.
“It’s so rewarding to be a voice for the students and work towards making the college experience as exceptional as possible,” said Kemper.
Looking ahead to the 2016–17 academic year
The SGA office reported the results of the May 16–20, elections with Ric Popp and Megan Scoville set to serve as President and Vice President. Popp is a senior and previous Executive Vice President. Scoville is a junior and previous Senator for the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
In a recent interview with the DePaulia, Scoville outlined some of her policies for the 2016–17 academic year, “We recognize that SGA serves as the official liaison between students and the administration.”
During the May 12, forum with all the candidates, each shared a common goal and purpose for the upcoming year: to increase campus affinity and to promote a healthy dialogue of ideas on campus.
For more information on the newly-elected members, please check out the recap from the SGA forum on the http://bit.ly/1O9wyUJ or SGA holds General Body meetings every Thursday at 6 p.m. which is open to the public.
Students optimistic about leadership change for the 2016–17 academic year
“The events that occurred May 20 are unfortunate. It is my hope that DePaul SGA continues to promote a dialogue of inclusion and ideas,” said Michael Schmidt, a sophomore at DePaul University, “I have several friends in student government. I know they hear students and hope to make some change.”
Newly-elected Executive Vice President for Student Affairs, Andrew Willett shared Schmidt’s hope for a stronger community in the coming year, “As Vice President for Student Affairs, I have a responsibility of being the connection between students, SGA and the administration. I want to focus on building a strong community that sees SGA as an advocate but also a trusted partner that helps creates action for student causes,” said Willett.
For more information on DePaul SGA, please follow them on Twitter @DePaul SGA and check out the website http://bit.ly/1TIL8j1.