By Paul A. Anthony, Editor in Chief
Rome wasn’t built in a day, but for Jonathan Wilkerson, a summer may do.
Wilkerson, president of the Students’ Association, sees glimpses of Caesar as SA’s offices are remodeled; it could be a symbol of the often-testy relationship between Congress and its administration.
Wilkerson noted in an interview last week that Caesar came to power with the powerful Roman Empire’s capital a shambles. The brick buildings were in decay. When Caesar died, Rome was as glorious as its empire, the brick now marble.
“Each group of executive officers tries to do one or two things each summer” to fix the office, Wilkerson said. “The space wasn’t utilized.”
The remodeling should provide for more room for student groups to meet, which reflects his and his cabinet’s desire to empower the student body through Congress, the cabinet members-Wilkerson, executive secretary Suzie MacKenzie, chief development officer Jessica Oakley and executive treasurer David Shinn-said Thursday.
Bigger in scope than the physical changes in its office, SA will add two cabinet members as mandated by a pair of constitutional by-law amendments ratified last semester-a chief communications officer and a chief development officer, also called the chief of staff.
The cabinet members said last year’s animosity between Congress and its president is over, and that they will instead work to empower Congress.
“We want Congress to internalize the vision,” said MacKenzie, “and have it become their vision.”
So Wilkerson avoided spelling out specific goals for Congress to achieve, saying instead that the SA retreat Sept. 5-6 would be the time for the legislative and executive branches to work out the year’s agenda.
Instead, the cabinet members listed achievements they think could be accomplished, such as a jogging track, which is close to being funded, Wilkerson said; photo developing in the Campus Store; or an Internet textbook exchange.
“We know in years past, there’s been some tension,” Wilkerson said. “We’re still leaders, but some of the greatest models of leadership flipped the pyramid upside-down and served those who were supposed to be underneath them.”
The 82nd Students’ Association Congress will be the first to serve under the rules passed as part of the so-called “Big Shake-Up,” which made committees more autonomous, created the cabinet and formed a regimen of executive committees devoted to advocacy.
Activities will not be planned by class officers anymore; instead, those officers will appoint class activity chairs who will be answerable to the newly restructured Campus Activities Board, Wilkerson said.
CAB will also oversee what used to be the Campus Entertainment Committee and its campus concerts function. Amanda Spell, director of student organizations and activities, and four student co-chairs oversee CAB.
Wilkerson said the consolidation would make better use of student fees by cutting down repetition and competing events. Meanwhile, Wilkerson said, SA has agreed to give CAB $10,000 each semester this year to offset the additional costs of planning all student activities.
Congress, meanwhile will focus on advocacy-starting a dialogue about and securing money for improvements the students feel they want or need.
One of those improvements, a jogging track that would ring the campus, has been funded by two senior gifts and Sub T-16. Wilkerson said the project could be started soon.
“It’s taken time,” he said. I’d say enough time has been taken. That’s an issue.”
Helping him with taking such issues to the university’s administration is Oakley, whose job description will be written as the year goes on.
“A lot of what I deal with will be internal work,” she said, such as administrative relations-the name of the executive committee she’ll chair. Oakley continued, coming back to a teamwork theme. “But we all work as a team. I know I can go to any of these people.”