The Student Government Association (SGA) President Rishi Shah and Vice President Darby DeBonis have now served in office for more than 220 days.
Shah, a junior finance, management and philosophy major, wrote in an email that being the president of SGA has been the most rewarding, humbling and exciting part of his college career. “I have had the privilege of meeting so many people and connecting with many different communities that I wouldn’t have been able to without this position,” he said.
Shah said at first, it was a “tough learning curve” to come into a position with no defined role. “Every other leadership role has an outlined list of duties,” he said. “It is my job to define this role and seek out initiatives that best suit the interest of the student body.”
DeBonis, a junior nursing and philosophy major, said a lot of her role involves helping members of SGA “become their best version” of whatever role they have.
“What I’ve learned is that this position became a natural behavior for myself that I fulfilled,” Debonis said. “Part of the reason why I want to be a nurse is because I do love caring for people and I do love helping people. I feel like, in a lot of my position as vice president, I am still fulfilling those principles.”
DeBonis added that she has also learned to be “less reactive and more proactive.”
Shah said that one of the biggest successes made by SGA is diversifying the organization. “Throughout the three terms I’ve served, this is the most diverse and motivated group of students we’ve had,” he said.
In addition, Shah said that SGA has officially formed a presidential cabinet, with 15 student leaders, who are not affiliated with the organization, serving in this role. He added that he hopes to gain more insight from different groups on campus.
DeBonis said that SGA was able to handle the challenges put in front of them this semester, such as the recent Concerned 44 movement. She said that the Town Hall meeting that ran two days after the start of the protest increased transparency and “put differences aside and worked toward a bigger picture,” regardless of whether or not other SGA senators were involved with the protest.
However, Taylor Newkirk, a junior psychology major, said she believes that SGA can work “slightly harder” to advocate for the students. “I believe that SGA has well-intentioned people in the organization,” Newkirk said. “However, because it has such a strong bond with the administration, it is difficult to sometimes trust that all of their intentions are in the best interest of the students as well.”
Newkirk said that following the protest, it was brought to her attention that many people believe that SGA was “pushing its own agenda” and trying to silence the students for the administration. “I believe that if that was not SGA’s true intention, then they should verbalize this for the students’ comfortability,” Newkirk said. “No one likes to be distrusted by their followers, so SGA should do what they can to regain that trust.”
Shah said he hopes to improve communication between different levels of administration and students.
“There are many conflicting groups on campus and being an intermediary of sorts comes with its own challenges,” he said. “We had to draw a line between interfering with the [Concerned 44] movement and with efforts being made by administration. On an organizational level, it is difficult to keep personal values separate from organizational ones.”
Shah said that next semester, he and DeBonis plan to “continue our diligent efforts and end our terms off without any loose strings.
“We hope to continue developing the Presidential Cabinet and solidifying that role for the future of this organization,” he said.
Liam Oakes can be reached at email@example.com.