By: Cara DeRose, Staff Writer

This fall, following a school year rife with controversy, USM’s Student Government Association (SGA) prepares to roll out new initiatives, which its members believe will strengthen the fragile relationship between students and their student leaders.

New, and old, faces accompany these initiatives. Muna Adan, a third-year self-designed media studies major, is the student senate chair. Student Body President Pdg Muhamiriza, a second-year political science major, succeeds former Student Body President Humza Khan, who resigned from the position via e-mail at the start of the semester to pursue another opportunity. Alexander Buzzell, a second-year political science, business and leadership triple major and former SGA press secretary, returns as the student body vice president. The new dean of students, Rodney Mondor, also serves as the SGA’s advisor.

In joint e-mail and Facebook interviews, Muhamiriza and Adan talked about how previous incidents involving the SGA, including the anti-Muslim graffiti found scrawled on a wall in the student government’s office, have influenced students’ perception of the association.

“We can all agree that our logbook has been tainted,” they said, “with unfortunate situations that may have shifted the sole purpose of the Student Government Association from being ‘for the students’ to ‘how to mend our reputation.'”

Yet, Muhamiriza and Adan stressed that instead of spending the semester on damage control, the SGA’s energies will put into connecting with the students the association represents.

“This year we, the Student Government Association, are emphasizing projects, [and] initiatives that are an attempt to go back to our primary mission are being enacted as we speak,” they said. “Lines of direct communication between students and their leaders are being established.”

One of these initiatives, according to Muhamiriza, is called “Meet Our Representatives.” Periodically, the SGA will host an open house in the student government office, during which students can mingle and discuss campus-related issues with student leaders. Adan noted that the SGA plans to host special breakfast and dinner events for students as well. These events will not only give students an excuse to fill their stomachs with free food, but, as Muhamiriza put it, they will make student leaders familiar to students.

To facilitate conversations about possible initiatives within student government, student senate meetings have been restructured to focus on two primary subjects: business and projects. Meetings will also be biweekly rather than weekly.

“We have divided our bi-weekly Student Senate meetings into two parts, business and projects,” they said. “Our project meetings will be a time for our student representatives to collaboratively brainstorm projects that we will tackle.”

“The biweekly meeting change will help with efficiency,” Adan added.

Another nascent initiative is the creation of a judiciary branch of USM student government. The brainchild of Adan, its existence hinges on a student senate vote next Friday. Although Adan mentioned that students outside of the student government’s purview would occupy seats within the branch, Muhamiriza and Adan would not comment further on specifics regarding the judiciary branch.

Above all, however, Muhamiriza and Adan want students to feel comfortable reaching out to their student leaders, a sentiment that echoes earlier calls from students for the SGA to function as a transparent, rather than evasive, political body on campus.

“We encourage members of the student body to get in contact with any questions, comments, and/or concerns,” they said.We are hoping that, through enforced collaboration, hard-work, and the restructure of the Student Government Association, the University of Southern Maine will soon bear the fruits of a newly redirected student body.”

Whether or not students will find those fruits palatable remains to be seen, but Muhamiriza and Adan are hopeful the SGA, with the help of these initiatives, can cultivate a stronger bond between those students and its members.

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