It’d be fair to say that most Simpson College students don’t want to cause conflict and would rather skirt around the edges of it than face it head on. That being said, there’s no doubt this year that there has been a fair share of conflict between Simpson’s Student Government Association and our student newspaper, The Simpsonian. It’s been fleshed out, sometimes rationally, sometimes unprofessionally, in opinion articles and blog posts from both sides. Being a class senator and a Simpsonian staff writer over the past year, I often found myself caught in the middle. However, now, I’m a former class senator and a future editor at the Simp and I’m hoping my combined knowledge of both organizations can lead to more harmonious flow between the two.
Before going any further, I need to say, neither side is right or wrong.
In the final edition of the year, the editorial staff of the Simp wrote a column entitled “Thumbs are up and down for 2010-2011,” in which the staff writes,
The communication between students, student groups and Student Government Association (SGA) was lacking this year. The frustration of who got what money all seemed to be a game of who was best liked or who was the most persistent. Things were not consistent throughout the year, which led to more frustration and misunderstanding.
To address the first point, I think one of SGA’s greatest accomplishments this year has been its creation and updating of its blog, its video blog and its social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter (with every meeting being live-tweeted). With news and content from SGA available on almost every platform a student could access, the “lack of communication” argument simply isn’t valid.
Not to say that the Simp writers don’t have a point. Consistency in how different groups were treated when requesting funding has been an issue, complicated even more by a little-understood finance code in need of a few revisions. In the final student government meetings of the year, discussion on revisions of the finance code revolved around developing two separate codes: one for groups requesting money during the spring budget hearings and a second for groups coming throughout the year requesting money from SGA’s operating budget for specific events or activities. This seems to be the most reasonable proposal brought forth, however, it will be up to next year’s senate and the students at large to ensure that new regulations be put in place.
So if the communication issue is not as big of an issue as previously believed and next year’s senate works to solve the consistency issue, then what else needs to happen to encourage cooperation between the Simp and SGA? On the part of the Simp, I think it’s essential to have a reporter present at SGA meetings. Perhaps this will fall under my authority (as next year’s Perspectives editor I’ve contemplated running a bi-weekly or weekly column on SGA) or will be traded between different reporters. However, as a senator, I’ve seen the nuances, the discussion and sometimes, the confusion that can take place during SGA meetings. To report fairly on the proceedings, it’s essential to have reporters and writers observe and record the various points and arguments discussed during an SGA vote.
Both of these organizations consider themselves to be advocates for students and watchdogs of the administration. Many opportunities exist for cooperation between the two groups in the form of hosting joint forum events or Q&A sessions with administrators. Of course, the Simp always has a duty to report honestly on SGA proceedings and decisions and SGA has the responsibility to make the decisions it thinks are right, even in the face of negative press. Yet in the end, a strong student press and a strong student government working to understand and cooperate with each other can only bring about positive benefits for the Simpson community.