By Morgan Petronelli and Jambar Contributor Courtney Cina
Many things have changed around Youngstown State University during the 2018-2019 academic year due in part to the efforts of the university’s Student Government Association. From the expansion of the food pantry to include a career closet to the startup of the Giant Eagle grocery pickup area, SGA’s efforts to improve the quality of life on campus is evident.
While SGA President Ernie Barkett and Executive Vice President Caroline Smith have accomplished a majority of their goals they set prior to being elected, they still have a few boxes left to check off their to-do list.
Barkett and Smith had prior experience in SGA before they assumed their leadership positions.
Both Barkett, a economics graduate student, and Smith, a senior political science major, have three years of experience working in SGA in an effort to better the campus community through university facilitated public service.
“We partake in quite a few different initiatives. If you look around campus you’ll see the water bottle refill stations,” Smith said. “Those are things SGA has sponsored.”
Initiatives like the water bottle refill stations aid in SGA’s attempts to cater to the needs of students. But some things they didn’t plan on helping YSU fix until they happened.
“We respond to the needs that students bring to us,” Smith said. “For example, the campus lockdown. Ernie [Barkett] and myself have been in contact with the YSU police chief and university administrators for the students’ safety,” Smith said.
Aside from unplanned occurrences, SGA has a variety of goals on the docket this semester.
Once the Mercy Health Care Center opens on the corner of Wick and Lincoln Avenues, Barkett and Smith urge students to take advantage of the on-campus health care option that is funded through a fee every students pays in their tuition.
They also want to remind students of the opportunity to pick up their groceries at the new Giant Eagle grocery pickup area located in The Cove.
“Those are two things that are university sponsored and [we want] make sure students are aware to make use of these opportunities,” Barkett said.
Some works in progress include a designated family area. Smith said after the idea of a YSU grocery store fell through, SGA opted for the Giant Eagle pickup area instead.
According to Smith, the remaining funds would be used toward the upcoming family center. She added that a space in Maag Library has been designated for the project and the funding has been secured to paint, refurnish and make the new area kid-friendly.
In an pre-election preview interview with The Jambar during the spring 2018 semester, Barkett said one of his and Smith’s goals was to rearrange advising and update the electronic degree audit system.
While DARS format has drastically improved, Barkett said there are still improvements to be made with department advising, and they plan to work on the issue throughout the remainder of the semester.
“[Smith’s] committee is going to be working on trying to gather all the issues with advising around different colleges, complaints from students and see how we can fix that because we can’t fire people and hire people. We will maybe rework the system that they use,” Barkett said.
Smith added that SGA and the Academic Affairs Committee plans on releasing a survey to the student population regarding advising. The survey will consist of questions asking students if they have a set department advisor or if their professors take on the job.
“I think it’s a lot more intricate than maybe we thought it was at the outset. So, it’s going to take a lot more work involved in the next 14 weeks to really get it done. But I think that we can,” she said.
According to Barkett, some of SGA’s other various goals include improving the shuttle system to get it running before 8 a.m. and pulling leftover Pete’s Points swipes into a weekly or semesterly pool to be used by students in need.
Smith added that since the move of the food pantry into the lounge behind Jamba Juice in Kilcawley Center, the days of operation have shifted from Monday through Thursday to Tuesday through Thursday. Due to this shift, SGA is planning on solidifying a position at the food pantry to maintain the presence of the resource.
“We’re attempting to put that person into our constitution, so it’s harder for the university to get rid of the food pantry and [the food pantry becomes] something a little bit more concrete,” she said.
Smith also mentioned the idea of universal Blackboard adoption by university administration and professors.
She said they are working on having every professor upload their grades and syllabus to Blackboard before the drop date along with posting final grades on the website instead of professors separately entering final grades, which the university could integrate with the Banner System.
With 14 weeks of the semester remaining and SGA opening up calls for candidates this week, Barkett and Smith have some suggestions for their future successors.
“So, the thing for the next administration is trying to find out something where we can make this place more affordable, outside of just being cheap tuition dollars, but making housing cheaper, making food costs cheaper, making textbooks cheaper. That’s always hard to do from year to year. I think it’s something that we haven’t touched on that would be useful,” Barkett said.
Smith suggested the next administration should look into more ways to diversify things and be more inclusive to the campus community.
Overall, both SGA officials said they were pleased with their accomplishments during their administration’s time in office and are hopeful for the future of YSU.
“I think we’re doing well. I think we just need to close out,” Barkett said. “I think we’ve done a great portion of doing the shared governance and keeping more people involved. I think it’s now just about wrapping everything up. It’s all been small steps leading to here.”
SGA body meetings are held every other Monday at 4 p.m. and are open to the public. The campus community is urged stop in and ask the student government body any questions they might have. The SGA office is located across from The Cove on the second floor of Kilcawley Center and is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.