When Frank Shushok Jr. became the vice president of student affairs at Virginia Tech, he was surprised by the number of students who came to him to complain about the University Student Government Association.The students told Shushuk that this group of people are Dysfunction, Does not represent student groups, is gender-based, and there are a few seats vacant throughout the school year.
“There are signs that the student government model that has existed for decades is no longer as effective as it used to be,” Shushok said. “For ordinary students, they did not regard the Student Union as an influential voice on campus as before.”
The students who participated in SGA resigned one by one.
“There are a lot of female members and LGBTQ+ community members resigning. One of the reasons many of them mentioned is that this is a “sexist and gay organization”, Jonathan Falls told Roanoke times. Fowles resigned as legislative representative in April last year.
Students are not the only ones who noticed the malfunction. At the time, the university was also pushing for change, and for the first time in 25 years it began to review the governance of Virginia Tech—not only among students, but also among faculty and staff.
So Shu Shuk formed a student governance working group. One of the people he chose to join was Thomas Miller.
Miller said he was one of many students on campus who had never considered the Student Union. But when Shushuk invited him to join the task force, he agreed. As a senior, Miller (now a graduate student in sociology at Virginia Tech) thought this might be his last chance to have a lasting impact on the university. After their first meeting, he knew that he and his colleagues were focusing on a completely reimagined management team. Nearly a year later, he is now one of the main student voices of this change.
“The working group didn’t intend to actually do this in the beginning,” Miller said. “But at our third or fourth meeting, especially when I put forward the idea of a complete renovation, we were more satisfied with discarding almost everything we currently have and building from scratch.”
By January, the organization had established a new model: a single student senate. Miller said that the previous model consisted of three parts, similar to the federal government, which caused problems due to lack of coordination.
“There is no that connection between the daily work of the SGA and what most students want,” Miller said, adding that the first three branches seem to act independently and don’t have much communication.
Butch Oxendin, executive director and founder of the American Student Government Association, said this problem is not unique to Virginia Tech. “Student governments across the country are not universally representative of their students,” Oxendin said.
For public universities, the average voter turnout in elections is only about 10% to 15% of the entire student population. “Many schools are even lower than this,” Oxendin said. “In other words, they are not enough to represent students to vote there.” Shushok said that at Virginia Tech, voter participation has been small and declining.
The new undergraduate Senate will be formally established this fall and will be composed of three different types of senators: Senators elected by the students of the college, general senators elected by the entire student body, and University Charter-Student Organization Senators. The last group of senators will be selected from representative minority groups such as the Muslim Student Association, the Committee of Black Organizations, and HokiePRIDE, an organization that supports the LGBTQ+ community on campus. This is a conscious effort to make the student government more inclusive.
“Creating these three different channels for students, giving them the opportunity to enter the Senate creates opportunities, and at the same time creates an unprecedented broad representation,” Miller said.
Shushok said that other universities have also become interested in the reorganization of Virginia Tech. Some universities have directly contacted his team, such as the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of British Columbia.
“I suspect other agencies will step back and say,’Well, maybe the old model is not as effective as it was 10 or 20 years ago,'” Shushok said.
A kind 12 student transition team A new constitution and regulations are currently being formulated for the next semester.
When Miller was preparing for his first year of graduate school, he worried that due to the poor reputation of SGA over the past five years, students might resist this new model. “We are trying to eliminate this fear by showing that’this is a different type of organization that can hear your voice and you can participate in’,” he said.