Students’ Association redesigned congressional committees to reflect its new image of honesty, efficiency and flexibility, said SA Vice President Tony Godfrey. Instead of forming five or six committees as it has done in the past, the Congress will be divided into only three groups: finance, internal affairs and external affairs. The purpose is to increase the Congress’ ability to deal with any situation, said Godfrey, junior political science and English major from Burleson.
“Whether we meet opportunities or obstacles, we want to be prepared to interact as fluidly as possible,” he said.
To do that, each committee will be given the authority to create task forces – Dr. Jean-Noel Thompson, vice president and dean for Student Life, is responsible for the name – if and when issues that need special attention arise. The three committees are larger this year than in the past, with 14-16 members. This makes it easier to carve them up into the smaller task forces.
For example, SA Treasurer Luke Cochran, senior finance major from Round Rock, has already set up two different task forces in the finance committee to deal with appropriations and conference requests, respectively.
In fact, the system for hearing conference requests has been overhauled entirely. Student organizations often request funding for trips to local or national conferences, and in the past, those requests were put before Congress as a whole. However, the number of requests began to overwhelm Congress – meetings became nothing more than a string of presentations by student groups, Godfrey said. As a result, the decision was made to hand over all conference requests to the new finance committee.
“For the first couple of weeks, we anticipate short, empty meetings,” Godfrey said, speaking of Congress. “But once they see that emptiness, they’ll fill it with more productive legislation.”
SA’s by-laws give the power to create committees to the president, in this case, Charles Gaines, senior criminal justice major from Cedar Hill. He then selects students to place on each committee. However, most of the plans for restructuring were made by Godfrey, so Gaines turned the project over to him. He said he did not want to get in the way of his staff. Instead, Gaines will chair the external affairs committee, along with co-chair Kara DuBose, chief communication officer.
“My committee would be working with the other universities, understanding how their students’ associations work,” Gaines said. “We don’t have this down perfect. We take the good and bad and mix it all together to try to come with the best Students’ Association we can have.”
Jared Elk, SA chief developmental officer, knows the by-laws backward and forward, and was responsible for making sure SA followed the rules in the creation of these new committees. He said he supports the decision.
“Those are groups of people that [the executive officers] can have at their disposal to help get projects done,” said Elk, a junior political science major from Savoy. “I think it’ll take a little bit of getting used to, but it’ll help committees focus on seeing projects through from start to finish.”