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Kalamalama - Hawai'i Pacific University Student Newspaper

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SGA strives for better representation

    By Dane Stein. February 4, 2013 - 12:47 pm


Students collaborate with university staff for solutions to representation, funding, and a bigger student government.

Money in private universities is managed very differently than in public institutions, where law requires certain disclosure of financial practices.  However, in a private university that information is often kept private. 

A Board of Trustees and University Staff manages these types of fiscal operations at HPU, with no direct representation of the students. But proposals are underway that have the potential to put the Student Body at the forefront of student activity.

A collaboration of students is proposing a new student fees structure that would deepen the involvement of the Student Government Association (SGA) and provide direct student representation to a new committee to manage the fees collected.

The Issues

“Student retention falls far short of acceptable levels,” according to the HPU Strategic plan.  Retention rates are a metric commonly used to illustrate the success a university has in graduating the students that enroll in degree programs.  In 2011, HPU had a six-year undergraduate graduation rate of 38.9 percent.

Despite a brighter picture illustrated by 81% re-enrollment rates in Fall 2012, both students and the SGA have mentioned a host of contributing factors to the low retention, among them housing, parking, campus feel, sense of ownership, and support from student programs.

“In this world of migratory students, that’s a good number, and a better indicator of how well HPU is doing,” said President Bannister.

With the support of University leadership through the “Third Pillar” of the Strategic Plan called the Student Success Initiative, there seems to be movement in a direction that would establish better student body representation, and fees to accommodate a wider program for student activities.

Current SGA Budget and New Fees Proposal

“I find that what seems to bring students together is a shared ownership in their own educational institution,” said Sean DeWoody, Downtown Campus Student Senator.  Recent initiatives in Student Life programs have spurred new efforts to instill that ownership, and a proposal by SGA Chairman James Cavin, Senator DeWoody, and Senator Miina Huotari aims to further legitimize the organization towards the same end.

Currently, the organization runs off a $56 thousand dollar budget, which is all that supports Registered Student Organizations and SGA’s Campus Activities Board through events ranging from movie nights to concerts at Aloha Tower.

In the proposal, a new fees structure would replace and expand that budget, compensate the SGA positions for what would be required office hours, and create a Student Activities Fee Allocation Committee (SAFAC) with student body representation and voting rights.  During the coming semesters, Cavin and his team will submit the plan to the University for consideration.

“After a year and a half of student collaboration with staff and student government, I am confident we have a model to present to President Bannister,” said Cavin.

Cuts in Programs, Rise in Tuition

According to one member, the SGA received budget cuts in Spring 2013 because of lower than expected enrollment numbers throughout the University.  This came despite events such as The Green performing at Aloha Tower

Tuition increases in 2012 were met by some students with chagrin when they were announced by email.  Miina Huotari was quoted in 2012 in the Kalamalama that “The email itself came out of the blue and as the increase is that big and the school has made decisions about our money, I would have wished there had been more transparency in this issue.  Why are we going to pay that much more?  Personally, I am ready to support the school’s development and improvement, if that is, in fact, the case.  But, like everything we put our money in, we need to know what we get in return for that investment.”

Student Activity Fee Allocation Committee (SAFAC for Short)

In order to ensure that students know exactly what they are getting for their investment in the future, SAFAC is included in the plan proposing new student fees.  Three out of the nine chairs on the committee would be made up of students, functioning in a sort of Student Trustee role to the budget collected.  Their purpose, as stated in a draft of the proposal compiled by Chairman Cavin and his team, is

  1. To provide as broad and comprehensive a program as possible for the cultural, social, aesthetic, and physical enrichment of students;
  2. To provide a forum or structure for establishing a “sense of community” and spirit among the students;
  3. To foster and encourage an intercultural flavor as to both participants involved and the programs presented; and
  4. To meet the special needs and interest of specific groups as funds permit.

Ongoing Efforts

There is a town Hall Friday the 8th of February that the SGA website says is “to discuss the implementation of a Student Activity Fee to create more opportunities for the student body.”  It will be held from 12pm-2pm in the Sea Warrior Center, and all students are welcome to attend.

The Commuter Assistant (CA) Program and the Peer Academic Coach (PAC) program are two long-term University efforts that aim to provide better bearing on Student Body opinions with mentor focused study.  The lead coordinator of the program, Student Affairs Specialist Stephanie Jarrett, said that “student involvement, relationships with faculty inside and outside the classroom, and utilization of university services and resources are contributors to retention.”

The student fees structure designed by Chairman Cavin and his team are geared toward solving very similar issues within the University.  Whether or not the University and students can find a way to solve what both appear to recognize as problems while enhancing common stock in the organization will be seen in the semesters to come.