Barnard’s Student Government Association plans to address the concerns of student workers, individuals experiencing food insecurity, and disabled students this coming semester according to a mid-year report released at the end of last semester.
The 27-page report provides a comprehensive list of all actions performed by SGA during the fall semester, SGA’s responses to student and group requests they received, and their plans for further actions this semester. The document was compiled and released in order to promote better engagement with the student body and increase transparency, according to SGA President Angela Beam, BC ’18.
Historically, student engagement with SGA has been low. Few students attend weekly council meetings, and 14 out of 22 SGA positions, including the position of president, ran uncontested in last spring’s election. Beam hopes that more students will both understand the work SGA does and want to participate themselves after being provided with an account of the semester.
“I believe that both the report and our work last semester demonstrate a genuine commitment to improving transparency and engagement,” Beam said.
This past semester, Representative for Campus Affairs Mia Lindheimer, BC ’19, and the Campus Affairs Committee surveyed 175 student workers to better understand student employment issues and injustices on campus. According to the report, one issue students identified was inconsistent overtime policies among different campus jobs. As a result, this semester the Committee will look to standardize payment for overtime hours.
The survey also found that students had specific grievances with Student Employment Services’ management of the Barnard Bartending Agency after it transitioned from a student-run organization to one managed by Barnard. Furthermore, the survey identified that residential assistants continue to have concerns related to transparency and job security.
Additionally, in response to several student groups that approached SGA with concerns last semester, SGA Representative for Food and Dining Sarah Broniscer, BC ’20, founded an ad hoc committee on food insecurity that will begin meeting this month. The committee intends to determine the scope of food insecurity at Barnard and document available resources for food insecure students.
“Up until now, there hasn’t been a good way to keep track of the incidence of food insecurity other than personal anecdotes,” Broniscer said. “The committee will definitely be addressing this through our research.”
The report also mentions that the Student Health Advisory Committee, led by Valerie Jaharis, BC ’19, is working to extend support for students with disabilities. Jaharis plans to restructure housing plans so that disabled students who require a single room are not socially isolated or charged extra. For the 2017 academic year, a single occupancy room cost $1,528 more per year than a multiple occupancy room.
SGA intends to continue this momentum through their spring elections by continuing to engage with students on a more direct level, raising voter turnout, and increasing the number and diversity of candidates.
“I believe we are beginning the new semester in a position to build off the productivity of the fall, and expand our impact throughout the spring,” Beam said.