Days after the Student Government Association announced plans for reorganization on social media, SGA President Michael Matrick explained the reasons for the changes in the executive branch at an SGA Senate meeting Jan.30.
Currently, the SGA executive positions are president, vice president, attorney general, treasurer and election commissioner. If the bill for reorganization is passed, the executive branch will resemble a vice president model with the positions being president, vice president of judicial affairs, senior vice president, vice president of communications, vice president of finance and administration and chief of staff, which will be considered an ex-officio member and continue to be appointed by the president.
“These are all titles that will help individuals post college,” Matrick said. “If you’re applying for a job, you go to the resume and you were the attorney general or the treasurer for organization, an employer might have an idea of what that is, but they’re not really gonna understand everything that you had to do. So if you’ve got titles that are already being used in the real life work sector, I mean, hey, what more could you do with that, right?”
Although most of the changes can be summarized as title changes, there are increases in responsibilities for some positions. The biggest changes in the reorganization involve the vice president of judicial affairs, vice president of communications and vice president of finance and administration.
Previously, the attorney general, which would be known as the vice president of judicial affairs if the reorganization passes, heard both parking appeal cases and cases surrounding violations of the SGA constitution and codes. In the reorganization plan, the vice president of judicial affairs would also sit on the Student Conduct Board.
The board is under the supervision of the Dean of Students Office. According to the Department of Housing and Residence Life, student hearing officers cannot be employed by the department or serve on SGA’s Judicial Board.
Matrick said it only makes sense for the judicial body of the SGA to assist the board. “I think it’s a responsibility of the student government to make sure that we sit in and hear the concerns of our students, and I think that should apply even when students don’t follow the rules sometimes.”
Both Dean of Students Sirena Cantrell and Associate Dean of Students Thomas Deus said they have not seen the reorganization proposal and could not offer a comment.
The vice president of finance and administration, which is currently known as treasurer, would also have more responsibility. Matrick said this position would initiate the phase out of SGA’s philanthropy commission, which has the main goal of assisting Southern Miss’ Foundation with raising scholarship money. Matrick said the financial and administrative branch would ideally have more control over what the money goes toward. He mentioned revamping the Fallen Eagle Memorial Service with an annual donation toward a memorial statue as an example.
Foundation administrators were unavailable to comment.
Lastly, the vice president of communications will serve as the chief communications officer for the entire organization and will have a team working on public relations and marketing materials. This position would replace election commissioner, which oversees two election each year. Under the new plan, the title would be changed to director of campus elections and serve in SGA Cabinet.
Chief of Staff Joanna Scott said the reorganization has been a topic of conversation since the fall semester and that some of the changes are long overdue.
“Currently, the communications branch is housed in the Cabinet branch, but they are responsible for processing communications for the entire organization,” Scott said. “The new structure would make external and internal communications more effective. On the other hand, with the advancement of our voting procedures to accommodate online voting, in-person polling stations have become obsolete. Therefore, our election commission branch has dwindled and fits more appropriately in the cabinet branch.”
Senior political science major Mckenna Bryant served as the executive director of student initiatives until she resigned Jan. 27. She said continues to support the organization and believes the reorganization will help the student body understand SGA more.
“The roles and functions of the roles are virtually unchanged, but the title changes better align with their purpose and the structure of other SGAs that can be seen on other college campuses,” she said.
If SGA passes the reorganization bill, which should be coming to the Senate before the end of the semester according to Matrick, Southern Miss would be the first public Mississippi university to adopt this model for SGA’s executive branch. Matrick said SGA presidents from three universities have contacted him about the reorganization.
“This just goes to show you that the work that we’re doing here could be instrumental in becoming the piece that other schools are looking at saying, “Hey, that University of Southern Mississippi SGA, they know what they’re doing. They’ve got it going on,’” he said. “Dr.Bennett says all the time that we want to be the premier institution in the state of Mississippi for higher learning, and so we always want to do that with whatever we do. I think this is something he would be proud of.”
For more information about the reorganization, visit https://www.southernmisssga.org/sga-reorganization and follow Southern Miss SGA and Southern Miss Senate on social media for updates on informational sessions and the reorganization bill.