By Rishi Shah
Student Government (SG) met to discuss a resolution to bring back meal equivalency and a proposal to restructure the Cabinet and create division officer roles on Nov. 17. The resolution passed, while the proposal to restructure the Cabinet did not.
Freshman political science major and president of the Freshman Class Council Jared Williams introduced the resolution to bring back meal equivalency, officially known as “R-F2021-01: Urging the College of New Jersey’s Dining Services to reimplement Meal Equivalency or an alternative allowing students to use swipes at dining locations located in the Brower Student Center.”
Meal equivalency was formerly offered to students of the College with a meal plan and provided them a balance of $8.60 to use at locations outside The Atrium at Eickhoff Hall between 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. every day. It was removed for the spring 2021 semester due to concerns of crowding during the Covid-19 pandemic, leading to backlash from students.
When Williams was asked about his motivation in proposing the resolution, especially as a freshman who had never experienced meal equivalency himself, he mentioned his role as a representative of the student body whose job it was to serve their interests and listen to their concerns.
“There’s a lot of dissatisfaction currently at Eickhoff Hall among the student body, and I also know a lot of students enjoy the food options at the Brower Student Center,” Williams said. “I also gauged an overwhelming consensus among the student body in favor of this initiative. I wanted to reflect their interests and adhere to their concerns and to write this resolution to take steps into bringing the change that they seek to reality because ultimately that is what Student Government is here to do and that’s what I am here to do.”
After SG members spoke of their thoughts on the matter, the resolution was passed.
Williams noted that the resolution would be sent to the Vice President of Student Affairs Sean Stallings, the General Manager of Dining Services Keith Murrary and any other stakeholders involved. He also said he would personally advocate for the resolution through personal meetings with the aforementioned stakeholders since the resolution passed.
The meeting then moved to the second order of business, “B-F2021-02: Restructuring of Cabinet and creation of Division Officer roles,” a proposal initiated to improve efficiency in SG and reduce the burden on Cabinet members.
In the presentation led by Chief of Staff and Task Force Chair Lakshmi Gurram, three main issues were raised: overlapping areas, high workload and siloed workstreams. To address these issues, the proposed changes included the creation of internal content area “divisions,” assistant vice president and support roles and representatives from different divisions and areas of governance sitting on “coordinating councils.”
The appointment of the division officers was suggested to include two rounds, one where they would be nominated by Executive and Cabinet officers and a second where they would be confirmed by the Cabinet during the summer to be presented to the General Assembly at the start of the academic year.
In terms of committees, it was proposed that the Advancement committee be restructured as the Marketing and Communications committee under the communications director, the Administration and Finance committee be split into the Finance and Programming committees, the Internal Operations team and Governmental Affairs committee be combined into the Legislative committee and the Governmental Affairs committee’s student organization work be remodeled as the Student Organization Recognition Board.
Six coordinating councils were also put forward as part of the proposal to facilitate the exchange of information on governance, policy and student input. This includes a Council on Governance, Academic Affairs Council, Student Affairs Council, Campus and Community Relations Council, Inclusive Excellence Council and Internal Operations Team.
After the presentation, there was a series of questions and answers by Gurram, followed by motions to enter debate and motions to enter into discussion. Members of SG voiced their opinions of the bill, with some expressing concern over the appointment process for division officers and disappointment that their feedback was not taken into consideration.
Hafsah Shaik, vice president for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in SG and junior psychology major, noted how long the bill has been in the works for and explained the need for the proposed changes.
“Student government is really great and we do a lot of good work, but everything can improve, and there’s a lot of room for improvement to make the organization more efficient and more cohesive too,” Shaik said. “Some Cabinet members have way more work than others. They signed up for this and they love this, but their work would be so much more efficient if they had an assistant, for example, who could manage some things or if the work was redistributed a little bit more.”
Ankita Patil, vice president for Campus and Community Relations and junior social psychology major, expressed her thoughts on the proposed appointment of division officers.
“I would say it’s a good idea because often we see people who win Student Government elections and people who are more widely known, and not necessarily for the skills that are needed for that position,” Patil said. “Sometimes it can be seen as a popularity contest, and I know there’s been a lot of criticism with the appointment process, saying that bias can take place but I think it’s also important to remember there’s bias whether you go by an election or whether you go by an appointment process.”
Patil also referred to her own experience as being appointed to be a senator, claiming that it allowed her to be involved without having to run against someone who may have been more well known.
After much discussion and deliberation, the final bill, which included a friendly amendment to have a two-thirds majority vote by the General Assembly to confirm the assistant vice president positions, was voted upon. The bill did not pass, with 45 members voting in favor and 51 against.
Gurram, who led the presentation of the proposed restructuring of the Cabinet as the task force chair, noted the lack of substantive feedback throughout the process.
“We did have two responses on the feedback form but none of them were actual feedback towards the structure that we were proposing. One was just a compliment of the structure, [and] another one was just questioning the whole process,” Gurram said.
She also defended the proposed appointment process included in the bill, saying that while she understands the role of SG as a representative organization, “the officers themselves are elected by the student body and when they’re elected by the student body, they should be able to handle the responsibility of appointing officers to assist them with their duties.”
Alekhya Madiraju, a senior biology major and vice president for Academic Affairs, hosted an open floor agenda item at the Dec. 1 meeting to voice her opinion on the restructuring bill.
“I think it was mostly about where our priorities lie as Student Government and why I feel it’s important to think critically about our structure instead of being contrarian for the sake of being contrarian,” Madiraju said.
The task force met on Dec. 3 to discuss next steps and will take the feedback from the General Assembly into consideration before introducing the bill again at some point next year.
“I would just say that the goal of SG with this bill is to increase efficiency so we can be better advocates and that’s why it matters,” said Madiraju.