SGA, And Everything You Might Have Wondered About It (and more!)

SGA; Hidden In Plain Sight

Northeastern University supports almost 25,000 undergrad and post-grad students. Handling a university of this size is no doubt a daunting and challenging task for those who are employed full time in administrative roles. What is surprising, whoever, is the group of students who quietly work behind the scenes of behalf of their peers in the Student Government Association (SGA). The Executive Cabinet is made up of Student Body President, five Vice Presidents overseeing various boards, and a Comptroller who deals with funding student organizations, as well as appointed positions Chief of Staff and Executive Director of Communications. SGA’s general body consists of over 80 senators on behalf of their individual colleges.

“We are not here to represent the administration to students, we’re here to represent students to the administration,” said Student Body President Elliot Horen. Even though SGA openly markets themselves as a resource for students, often times there is still a lack of clarity to how students can get involved and how they can make an impact. Outside of the Executive Cabinet, SGA is made entirely up of general student senators.

In recent years, there has been unrest at Northeastern over student’s representation as senators. Senators often represent their colleges, but there is little control over how many senators per college. One letter in the Huntington News explained how D’Amore-McKim had 10 senators, while College of Arts, Media, & Design had one, which could theoretically mean SGA didn’t holistically represent the university at large. The letter went on to say how there also were very few senators from a marginalized background. However, SGA does not force anyone to be a member, and they can only be as diverse as the students who are interested to be involved.

To solve this, SGA is working on targeted student organization outreach, which, according to the Huntington News, is “designed to give underrepresented groups a voice.” This also was the goal in SGA’s new monthly initiatives.

“Every month we have our own monthly initiative, and I participate in that whenever I can to increase awareness of SGA,” said Vice President for Student Involvement Nick Haberli. “One of the first projects I did in SGA was an outreach program, reaching out to other freshman at the time, essentially spreading the good word. It involved working and speaking in front of groups of people to, maybe not join SGA, but to just be involved, and to understand who they can talk to if they needed to get fixes.”

Once a problem is identified, SGA works to rectify the problems through outreach and groups dedicated to the issue. This can be seen in Bailey Uitz’s experience with SGA.

“I joined because I was always involved in SGA in high school, so I thought it would be a good place for me on campus,” said the middler physical therapy major. “I joined a University Health and Counseling Services working group this semester to try and make improvements to our health services, since as a future health care professional that’s something I am really passionate about, and I know that it is also something many people feel needs a lot of improvement.”

Because of this group, UHCS has extended hours twice a week to accommodate those who are on co-op, and has more appointments available with less wait time. These changes were implemented within a semester, thanks to the work of Uitz and the SGA working group. These changes were based on student surveys to see who is utilizing the services, how often, and to see where UHCS could potentially improve. According to the Huntington News, roughly 71 percent of surveyed students have needed to see a doctor, but decided against going to UHCS. Statistics like these are what the working group aims to change.

“On mental health, we continued to hear reports from students that the services they are receiving are just not timely or high quality, so we’ve been working for the past year with Dr. Klein, the director of UHCS to improve that,” said Horen. “We are in partnership with Students Against Institutional Discrimination and partners with Active Minds, and I think our success happens when we are able to bring together students groups around a common goal.”

Since SGA is an influential group hidden in plain sight, there are those who are aware of what SGA does on campus, and the potential that lies in the organization. Senior computer engineering major Rachel Rudolph was a member of SGA early on in her college career. Although it’s been a few years since she was an active participant, she still advocates for the power of SGA.

“I think it’s really important for all students at large to at least sit in on one SGA meeting to see the hard work that our peers are doing for our benefit. It is very difficult to understand the reasons behind certain changes or initiatives without being present to hear the discussion and progression,” said Rudolph. “Each student here is given an opportunity to voice their opinions or implement change, and SGA is the avenue to do this. I think if I could change one thing about my experience in SGA, it would be to become more involved in the committees or initiatives. I think SGA should hold their members more accountable in speaking up or getting involved, because I wish I had done that myself.”

SGA is active on campus advocating for their current initiatives, although there involvement may not be visible. One of their two major projects this semester was Northeastern Votes, enrolling students to vote in the election. Northeastern Votes was an initiative involving 16 campus organizations including SGA, who had a goal of “80 by 20” according to a Huntington News article. The goal was to register 80 percent of the students on campus to vote by 2020. Before the national and state elections on November 8th, the initiative registered over 1,000 students to vote.

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Gender Breakdowns in the Tech Industry (Data)

Gender percentages in tech firms has become a hot topic recently, as a push to get women more involved in the sciences becomes popular.

For comparison purposes, we as a class looked at four of the top tech firms (Facebook, Google, Yahoo, and Apple). While women are roughly 30% of each of the firms (with some firms demonstrating higher women numbers than others), men very clearly are the majority in the companies.

image-2

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1eFMWHKDfyz-g_n0bBmN6eRVMg58RLLaQ7cQ-8WBWlds/pubchart?oid=761140903&format=interactive
However, delving deeper into the data, we can see that the number of women actually in technology-driven roles is much smaller than we originally thought. While the percentage overall includes women in more administrative roles/HR in the company, the bars labeled “Women in Tech” and “Men in Tech” include only the engineer/technology based employees. This gives a more dismal view of women in the industry. While we can assume more women are getting involved in these companies, it is clear many of them aren’t in the potentially higher-paying roles.

Final Projects

For my final project, I plan to talk to members of SGA for my video, asking them about what their initiatives have been for the past semester, and what they are planning to do in the future. I am lining up interviews with executive board in order to get a head start, and am also going to ask about what other events they have left in the semester, so I can use one of these for my photo story.

For my written story, I want to focus on how no one really knows what SGA does, and how much effort goes into each week/event. I want to ask people on campus what they think SGA is responsible for, and how students think SGA could better market their ideas.

My overall goal with these stories is for students to understand SGA better. If they understand how their student government works, they can take advantage of what is offered to them more, and potentially enhance their Northeastern experience. Students often complain about issues on campus, but most times no one takes any action to solve the problems. SGA is an under utilized resource, and hopefully this can change it.

Emack & Bolio’s

Today I visited Emack & Bolio’s Newbury Street location to get myself a cool treat on a 60-degree November day. The store specializes in ice cream, sorbet, yogurt, and smoothies, and their colorful menu does not disappoint.

Their 290 Newbury Street store is relatively small (most likely since square footage is at a premium here), but is bright and exciting, and almost everywhere is painted. For those thinking about coming here, make sure to come on a nice day, since there it zero seating indoors, thus forcing their customers outside to eat.

The real instagram-worthy food is their unique cone toppings such as Rice Krispies, chocolate Rice Krispies, and some loaded with sprinkles. The store is definitely a must-visit, however it is too pricey to be a weekly treat, my cone & single scoop ice cream cost about $7.50.

While I was there, I spoke to another customer (the only one there) about her experiences.

“I’ve come to the store maybe three or four times before,” said Northeastern junior Anne Klauck. “The cones are really the main reason why I keep coming back. The ice cream is fine, but not really worth the price.”

Since this was my first time, I asked for recommendations.

“The Salted Caramel Chocolate Pretzel flavor is a top choice for sure, but my favorite has to be the Heaven flavor [vanilla, marshmallows, and white chocolate chips),” said Klauck.

Emack & Bolio’s At a Glance

290 Newbury Street

Open Daily 12 pm- 11 pm

617-536-7127

Closest T Stops: Hynes and Copley//Green Line Back Bay and Mass Ave//Orange Line

Not Wheelchair Accessible

Accepts Credit Cards

Cornhole Goes Philanthropic

On Saturday October 15th, Northeastern sorority Delta Zeta held their semesterly philanthropy event supporting Starkey, which provides hearing aids to those hard of hearing domestically and throughout the world.

With 96 teams of 2 competing, all entry fees went towards the organization. I spent the day talking to those involved, and watching the competition. I also spoke to one sister in particular who was able to go on a mission trip to Mexico with Starkey, and help fit hearing aids for a week.

For a game that is usually low-key and good natured, everyone involved got very competitive and aimed to win. After a few hours of games and barbecue, one team was finally crowned Cornhole Classic Champion.

A Day in the Life of the Governor

Since my class topic is Massachusetts’s politics, I had to be careful when selecting a site that posting inaccurate political “facts”, or some other far-left/far-right wacko blog. To make it easier on myself, I simply picked a blog of a government official. The blog I selected is https://blog.mass.gov/governor/, which is “The Official blog of the Office of the Massachusetts Governor,” Charlie Baker.

A lot of the blog is keeping up with what the Governor has been attending, and photos from these events. The set up of the blog looks eerily similar to what most of us have on our wordpress sites, with a “Commonwealth Blogs” blogroll, a word cloud of most popular tags, categories, and archives going back to April of 2015.

I personally enjoy the blog because it gives some idea of what the governor spends his time doing, and explains the events he’s been attending, people he has talked to, and initiatives his office is undertaking.

I think this website could be better if the governor wrote any of these posts himself. A lot of the writing seems to read like a press release or a “look what great things Charlie has been doing” website. Mayor Marty Walsh has his own blog as well, and most (if not all) of the posts are written by him, for his constituents.

Its not possible for readers to engage directly on the blog, rather they direct you to their “Office of Constituent Services, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube channel instead, which is something I think detracts from the website. Although, realistically if someone needs to get in contact with the office, they most likely would be calling the phone line rather than asking questions on his blog. Last month the site got around 74.9k hits.

Screen grab from blog
Screen grab from blog
Screen grab from blog
Screen grab from blog

When I ran it through SimilarWeb, I saw almost 90% of their hits came from the US, and coming in #2 was, surprisingly India, then St. Lucia. However, the average duration visit was 34 seconds. Their bounce rate was 43.16%.

Screen grab from SimilarWeb
Screen grab from SimilarWeb

A majority of the traffic sources came from people searching through a website like Google (most popular organic keywords were mbta map, and vote the person not the party) but a surprising amount came from going to the website directly. Those who were referred from other sites came from mass.gov, doe.mass.edu (the Department of Education website).

Screen grab from SimilarWeb
Screen grab from SimilarWeb

The website uses no display advertising, however, given its technically a government website, this isn’t surprising since the goal isn’t to make money off the website.

Divest NU Begins a Protest

On Monday Oct 3rd, I happened to walk by Centennial to class and saw giant signs and tents everywhere. Curiosity got the better of me, so I went up to the students sitting there and asked about their cause.

They were representing Divest NU, a coalition of student groups who want Northeastern to pull their investments from companies and organizations that are hurting the environment. They plan to camp out on the quad (in rotating shifts to accommodate class/other needs) until the powers-that-be at Northeastern change their ways.

“We want the administration to divest and we’ll be here until they do,” said Sara O’Brien, a fourth year political science major. “Climate change is just one of the things the administration should be divesting from.”

Of the coalition, Student for Justice in Palestine, HEAT, Progressive Student Alliance, Feminist Student Organization, and NU Buddhists were present while I was there.

Last year 75% of Northeastern students who voted on Divest NU’s referendum voted in favor of divestment according to O’Brien. While Northeastern said they were going to make changes over the summer, the protestors said this didn’t go far enough.

“Over the summer Northeastern put out a letter about how they’re going to invest 25 million dollars in sustainable investments, and in the same post they included how they couldn’t divest as it was a retreat from global challenges,” said fourth year psychology major Gabby Thurston. “We’re here today to say that we haven’t gone away, and that we still want divestment.”

I returned again on Tuesday to see if I could find anyone who had spent the night on Centennial. Ethan Skutt, a second year mechanical engineering student, described the overnight atmosphere as upbeat.

“We had some good conversations around here, and had a lot of good energy. We took turn keeping watch so some of us could sleep,” said Skutt. “So far, no one has asked us to leave. We have been informed by administration if there are any previously scheduled activities here, they’ll consider it a violation if we stay, which will be followed by action.”

In preparing for this protest, the Divest NU group had reached out to the National Lawyer Guild (NLG), which third year electrical engineering student Nick Boyd called “a liberal leaning alternative to the bar association.” The NLG, which provides legal counseling for people fighting for civil rights, provided their services for free.

Being a business major in addition to journalism, I have a unique view on divest campaigns, and how they impact the overall market (hint: they don’t), but think the students have chosen an interesting way to make their point. Here’s hoping the weather makes it easier on them.