What issues at USD need to be addressed first?
SB: “The big thing, as is with any election, is to improve student engagement. This has been a tough topic on this campus, trying to motivate students so that they feel like they are apart of this institution, and to make them want to be involved with things going on on our campus. Students that are involved in student organization can tell you the benefit of being involved, and how much more of an education it offers them. We want to encourage students to not just join organizations, but to collaborate with students across campus to be one cohesive unit.”
KF: “I completely agree, that is why I am here right now. Being the finance chair, working with the student organizations, I see these brand new organizations that are just getting started this year. I help them set their budget, and I know how difficult it is to get started without support.”
SB: “That kind of brings us to the second part of our platform. Dr. Alma Clayton Pederson was on campus this semester, and she brought up the issues of diversity, but also inclusive excellence and what that truly means to the university. Essentially, what it means is that everybody feels connected to everyone around them, and that they have an identity that matters as much as their peers. We want to try to ensure that there aren’t barriers keeping the students from being apart of this institution. We also want to find ways to help, because meeting with Dr. Pederson, this seems to be something that is feasible for our school.”
How will you specifically increase student engagement?
SB: “One way is to improve communication between the Student Government Association and the student organizations on campus. There are a lot of resources that the SGA can offer that these students are not aware of. So, it starts by making sure the organizations we have on campus are aware of their full potential. We can also bring some collaboration between student organizations to put on events cooperatively to bridge the gaps that don’t necessarily need to be there but are. Also, kind of bridging the gap between student organizations and athletic teams. There are a lot of our athletes who are involved with student organizations, but there seems to be a separation between the two, so we want to try to involve some of these student organizations with the events with the student athletes.”
What do you mean by full potential for organizations?
KF: “Something that being a finance chair, I see very often. We find that student organizations govern themselves in a different way, and so when they do that, it creates, kind of this lag time between what we like them to be doing, and what they are doing. It just kind of hurts them when the person who is supposed to be in charge of the organization leaves and doesn’t properly explain how to interact with SGA because we want to help them. We want to give them money, we want to give them resources and we want to help them to be organized better, just because we know how much students get out of these organizations, and we want to help with retention and attendance. Sometimes, these organizations don’t know how to interact with us, they don’t know how to set a budget, what can be funded, what can’t be, and they honestly just don’t get how that process works. We want to make the communication a lot better.”
Are organizations struggling to understand how to work from a financial standpoint?
KF: “They don’t understand that they have (GAF) money, or they don’t understand how to get reimbursed. Organizations don’t typically understand how that works. Some don’t spend their budgets wisely or some don’t spend it at all and aren’t aware that they have it. We usually do the budgeting process in the spring, so it is usually a senior who goes through the process with us and then leaves nothing for the person that comes in the fall. It can just be a difficult process for many student organizations, and this is a problem we want to help.”
Can you talk to me more about what is ‘Inclusive Excellence’?
KF: “The first thing that I want to do is, we have a subcommittee on diversity right now, and I want to expand it a little. Just like standing committees, I would like to make the subcommittee a standing committee, but also allow it to be an open committee so anyone can join, they don’t necessarily have to be on SGA. How that would work, the SGA members would be the only ones with voting rights, but everyone would be encouraged to grow and participate.”
What do you want to see the subcommittee accomplish?
SB: “The first two points of diversity I think USD needs to address are with Native Americans and international students, and the needs for these two constituencies are very different. If Native American students are trying to live out their culture at a university where other students don’t follow the same culture, but this culture is a trademark of our state, why aren’t we embracing the traditions of our Native American students? It is such a big portion of our culture in South Dakota, but the big event, the big powwow for Tiospaye, we spoke to their president and he said that very few USD students come to that event, I think part of this is that students of non-Native descent not knowing what it is, what it stands for, why it is held. This time at USD gives us the opportunity to gain that experience and appreciate traditions we are not accustomed to.
The other aspect is international students. The university has made some strides with hiring Dr. Trevino – adding someone full-time to work on diversity, but there also needs to be some ways where the Americanized education system to ease the transition. One of the ways can be through a chance for international students to get to the university before it gets absolutely chaotic, prior to the move-in day or whether that would be more like having more help with homework. I have a friend from indoor soccer who stopped me in the library the other day, and asked me to help with chemistry, and I ended up helping him and four other international students with their homework. For some of those classes, for international students to try to keep up with the coursework, I can’t even imagine, because you see traditional students who are struggling to keep up with the timeline. We need to address the language barrier and find an easier way for them to adjust to the settings and feel like they are part of this university, because as we have seen from efforts from Megan in student life, they separate to their biographical area when they come. And it is tough for them to try to bridge gaps. It is tough to expand staff in higher education, I think that is a place to start, don’t know the right way, have to make some effort, using Dr. Trevino, students and international students.”
What would you change or continue from the prior administration?
SB: “The best thing they did was make sure students had input. During their term, we held more forums than the two presidencies before them. Alissa and DJ made sure that SGA had a presence on campus, so students have a knowledge of what it stands for. Also, maintaining a great leadership role to the other senators is something we want to continue.”
KF: “I was also really impressed that Alissa would pick on the bigger issues. She went to Pierre to pick on the gun control bill, she just picked these big issues and made students more aware and involved. I think GSAP was some great work she has done. It is something that directly affects college students, and she has really advocated for students.”
What do you want to do about the smoking ban?
SB: “This is a very difficult topic to address just because of how it has been implemented across the nation. Large institutions have made a message to not smoke on their campuses, and I believe we saw that on USD’s campus, where it was a public statement that smoking in public is affecting students and that the university does not support that. At this time, there have been no sanctions taken against the policy. It is more of a general public policy – if someone is doing this, deter them. At this point, there have been any manifestations across the country of how smoking bans but to expand our ban to have fines is tough, because what is that going to serve? Is that going to deter people, is that going to frustrate people and make them feel more isolated? I think students on this campus are more respectful and fines are not necessary. If a very evident problem continues, than that might be something that needs to be addressed, but at this point, I don’t think there is any need for fines.”
KF: “It is a policy that has been enacted, and we are just going to move forward. In a few years, there won’t be anyone on campus who ever thought there was smoking allowed here. Maybe the faculty will be the only issue.”
Challenges to face in the next year?
SB: “An evident change will be with the MUC expansion. There will be some stuff we can address with student needs and concerns. Last night, we were able to meet with a spacing analyst, and how they were going to assess spacing issues on campus. What we gaged was adding more study areas in the academic buildings on campus, and the next SGA president and vice president will need to be in negotiation for issues like this.
Also, we are trying to establish an identity as a university, we even have the new fight song in place, but is not widely known. There have been various efforts, myself included, to get people to learn it, but I think part of that deals with the student pride. I think that is something the next president and vice president want to address and instill in our students, but it is always going to have to start with our upperclassmen.”
KF: “GAF funding is also taking a cut. We just finished up going through the budget – the university has to budget before they know exactly how many hours students are going to take – and we had to make some cuts. It was not what we wanted to do, but we basically made cuts, 6 percent across the board for different departments. Hopefully, with increasing enrollment for the next few years, we will catch up and we will have more money than we can find things to do with.”
What kind of legacy do you want to leave for SGA?
SB: “First and foremost, we are leaving a legacy as a group students that has helped evolve the university, which has been seen the last 10 years. And just by ensuring that that transition has gone as smoothly as possible, we are able to make sure wen are leaving something for those that plan on following us.”