When St. Mary’s College of Maryland pivoted to address health guidelines early in the COVID-19 pandemic, it altered many aspects of campus life, but the College’s Student Government Association (SGA) stepped up to help in a big way for students both on and off campus.
The College’s SGA is charged with unifying the student body and representing the students to the faculty, administration and community. In cooperation with the Student Activities Office, the SGA normally allocates student activity fees to support student-initiated programs including campus media, student publications, guest lecturers, dances, concerts, film series, and more than 80 clubs and organizations reflecting varied student interests.
A large amount of funding this academic year has been directed at student needs.
“A lot of emphasis has been placed on students’ needs during this time of COVID-19 and we believe that the money in the funds should benefit the student more [directly] as it is theirs to begin with,” said Josh Ajanaku ‘22, vice president of SGA.
Ajanaku and SGA president Cachi Sanchez Santos ‘21 began their administration in the fall, building on prior administrations' work in addition to supporting new projects. Ajanaku said he is most proud of two unanimous votes from SGA—one in the spring and another in the fall—to donate to the College’s Recovery Fund. The Recovery Fund assists SMCM students with financial hardships they may face due to the pandemic.
“It really showed our true potential as an SGA to support students. Not only did we do it once, but we did it twice,” Ajanaku said. SGA donated $50,000 to the fund during the spring 2020 semester and an additional $25,000 in the fall.
SGA has also paid close attention to wellness. In September, the SGA allocated $10,000 toward campus flu vaccinations. It is also working to allocate funds toward a My Student Support Program (MySSP) mobile application as another avenue for student wellness.
Santos is particularly proud of the strides that the SGA has made in its initiative toward menstrual equity. In November, SGA allocated $5,000 to the menstrual equity bill to support the free distribution of menstrual products around campus. The idea began under the 2018-2019 SGA administration and launched a trial run with a small distribution at the campus food pantry. With continued SGA support and a collaboration with the College’s Title IX department, SGA members and past members worked with a third-party vendor to distribute an increased amount and variety of products across campus.
“It's very fulfilling to see a project start out as an idea and see it manifest tangibly into the real world,” Santos said.
Santos said they are most proud of this legislation because, “its passage exemplifies the collaborative spirit that SMCM students are taught to embody even over periods of time where previous SGA members were no longer active members.”
One fun project that began last spring and came to fruition this semester was allocating $60,000 to replace the floating dock at the waterfront, led by senate leader Erin Lanham ‘22.
With surplus funds from the previous school year placed in the Special Carryover Budget, SGA began looking into larger projects in need of funding. Lanham, after speaking with waterfront staff, pitched the idea to completely replace the floating dock which had undergone numerous repairs over the years. After a unanimous vote in favor of the project, SGA worked closely with waterfront staff to organize and execute the project.
“The collaboration between SGA and the waterfront staff, in general, has been a rewarding experience and provides a lot of hope for the future of staff/student relationships,” Lanham said.
Santos said they were impressed by collaborative efforts by the student body as a whole including one student who took the initiative to create a video celebrating Black women on campus. They said participants were recorded all in black, dancing and posing as muses together. Santos invited them to present the performance during an SGA meeting.
“I'm really thankful that they were willing to do so and also were proud of what they accomplished,” remarked Santos.
SGA meets at 8:15 p.m. Tuesdays via Zoom and socially distanced in Schaefer Hall. For more information, go to smcmsga.com.