Trust the Process: Implementing an SGA Bill
“Your vote. Your voice. Your SGA.” was the slogan of the party that ran for Student Government last April. But what does SGA even do?
Last semester a senator wrote Senate Resolution 2117, “A Resolution for Public Works and Maintenance Employees to Postpone Loud Construction and Maintenance in Close Proximity to Residence Hall Dorms.” The bill stated that maintenance workers and public works employees carry out early-morning work that can easily disrupt students’ sleep, and students need rest to perform well in their classes.
The latter half of a bill typically proposes a solution. This bill’s sponsor asked that “maintenance and public works employees should refrain from carrying out noisy work that is in close proximity to the dorms until after 8:00 am.”
Senate ultimately decided to pass the bill in order to continue the conversation and pursue a possible solution. Just because the bill was passed, however, does not mean that it became law.
“Really all that [a bill] is, is our assembly’s formal request for something that we want to see happen. So, we come up with an idea either something from the student body or one of the senators bring it forward, and we put that into action,” says Faith Pilkington, who wrote Senate Resolution 2117.
Pilkington, a Junior Political Science major and Philosophy minor from Ripley, TN., has a lot of experience in bill writing, creating over 10 bills last year as a senator. Now serving as Vice President, she helps decide what committee bills go to whenever they’re written. This bill went to the Campus Opportunities Committee where it was reviewed and edited.
After making it out of committee, the bill was discussed at the Senate Meeting, where the assembly invited the Assistant Director for Residence Life, Ryan Martin, to come and give his opinion since he knew more about the processes. Through discussions, the assembly learned that this was a concern for many students and that this is something that administrators didn’t necessarily realize, but they also came to understand that there was no easy answer. Some construction, like pouring concrete, needs to take place in certain conditions that only occur in the morning, and emergency maintenance would still have to take place if an incident arose.
Because the resolution passed with a 2/3 vote from senators, it landed on Chancellor Carver’s desk within the next week. There, he decided what administrator would be in charge of finding an answer to the problem.
The window of time that it takes to implement a solution from a bill can take anywhere from a week to months. Last semester Iman Ahmed, a senator for SGA, wrote a bill that was implemented within the same semester allowing students to decorate their caps at graduation. But bills that affect the calendar, like Senate Resolution 2105, “A Resolution to Extend Fall Break,” take longer because it is planned so far in advance.
Pilkington says that throughout her time in SGA and writing bills, the biggest struggle she’s faced is communication. “Oftentimes whenever you’re writing a bill, you’re wanting to make sure that it gets across in the most effective way to your Senate…So just deciding what is best for the student body, communicating those needs, sometimes can be an issue insofar as us all being on the exact same page. But it’s something we work on and that’s why we extensively talk about these bills to get them passed.”
“I see all the benefits that come from serving your student body, seeing the different ideas come to fruition on your campus,” Pilkington said. Those ideas come from students and are implemented for the betterment of students. If you have an idea or question about how to get involved with SGA, go to utm.edu/departments/sga.