New SIPASA Board to Address Problems of Past

New Board must work harder to address challenges of past while getting more students to care

 

By Harpreet Gill

If  a  SIPA  student  has  opinions  she’d  liked  voiced  and  acted upon,  the  SIPA  Student  Association (SIPASA) Board is supposed to be one  place  to  turn.  Yet, low  with  student engagement  in  the  past  few  years, students  have  questioned  the  abilities of the student leaders to respond to their needs.

Roshni  Bandesha  (MPA  ’15)  sums up  many  students’  understanding  of the SIPASA Board: “I think the Board does  a  lot  but  I’m  not  sure  exactly what they do.”  With just 45% of students voting in the recent Board elections, the newly elected 2014 SIPASA Board will need innovative ideas to get students to care.

The new Board has begun to craft a new strategy and is deciding  how best to allocate the spring semester’s $60,000-70,000 in revenues generated by student fees, which amount to, on average, $55 per student per month.

Although the Board has informally met multiple times since the election and has led several events, including the Welcome Back Party on January 31 and Student Group Fair on February 4, they’ve only just agreed to their term’s agenda.  At the first full meeting on February 11, the group identified three major focus areas: inclusion, engagement, and transparency.

According  to  Benjamin  Weiss  (MIA  15’),  SIPASA’s  Co-Chair  for  Communications and External Relations, the Board  hopes  to  make  its  activities more inclusive, in order to better cater to the diversity of students, programs, and  degrees  that  SIPA  offers.    Additionally, this year’s Board wants to increase student engagement by soliciting more student input and involvement with events.

Nusrat Jahan (MPA-DP ’14) is one of the students that hopes to be better engaged by the new Board.  “In my view, they organize too many social events and happy hours.  I would probably like something more constructive,” she said. “SIPASA can actually collaborate with other SIPA groups more often to organize theme-based events, which I don’t think they do much.”

In response to such criticism in the past, the Board is currently planning several upcoming events, including a ‘Free Speech, Free Eats’ speaker series on February 25 and office hours for meetings with the Student Academic Task Force.

The Board’s last big goal is to continue building on transparency measures taken by the previous Board.  There is some work to be done on that front, as the SIPASA website still contains last year’s information, and the prompt release meeting minutes has been lacking.

SIPASA’s management has some institutional inefficiencies to deal with as well, which have been carried over from previous boards.  Although midterms are just a few weeks away, student groups have yet to receive funding for spring semester activities.  According  to  Dean  Duane Bruce,  the  Board  could  have  moved the  deadline  earlier  than  February 7  so  that  student  groups  would  receive Spring semester money sooner.  Deepti Kakkar (MPA ’15), President of the South Asian Association (SSA), says the funding process is “frustrating” for additional reasons.

“It’s  difficult  to  bring  about  big changes  in  [our  student  group’s]  programming  because  much  of  the funding is contingent upon previous year’s activities,” she said. New student group leaders are often limited by past budgets that they were not responsible for spending.

The previous Board “talked about it but didn’t change it [and] the new Board seems more interested in changing the funding process,” Dean Bruce said.

So are big changes possible?

 

budgetSource: SIPA Business Office. SIPASA activities exclude Gala expenses.

The  Board  has  financial  resources and administrative clout, particularly  when  empowered  by  the  student body.  As  evidence,  Weiss  points  out to the changes brought about in the restructured Politics of Policymaking (POP)  class  this  past  fall,  in  which SIPASA  set  up  an  Academic  Task Force  to  help  restructure  the  core MPA course curriculum.

But the Board’s future relationship with students and, more importantly, their understanding of student needs, may be limited due to a lack of student engagement.

The  Board  hopes  to  improve  on this  communication  in  the  coming weeks  with  Google  groups,  online surveys,  and  listening  sessions,  and are  encouraging  students  to  reach out  to  their  elected  representatives on issues that they care about.

During  the  SIPASA  election  debates  this  past    November,  Viola Kuzmova  (MIA  15’),  the  current Board President, stated, “The key is outreach–town halls and orientation is  not  enough—we  need  more.”  The Board meets again on February 25.

Let’s hope they figure out what else is needed to get the student body to care.

Harpreet Gill is a first-year Master of Public Administration student.

This story first ran on the print edition of The Morningside Post on February 19, 2014

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3 Responses to “New SIPASA Board to Address Problems of Past” Subscribe

  1. Ruba February 21, 2014 at 6:02 PM #

    Almost 60,000 for a party?

  2. John February 21, 2014 at 7:18 PM #

    First story I have read that serves the newspaper’s role as a watchdog. Well done!

  3. Raúl February 24, 2014 at 6:55 AM #

    The amount of student fees is $55 per semester per student. It’s per semester or per term, not monthly.

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