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Sept. 14, 2006

SGA tries to show Blair that they are more than just three letters

by Priyanka Gokhale, Online Editor-in-Chief
When passing through the 160s hallway, one door stands out from the others. At first glance, it looks like the door to every other room at Blair –- polished wood with a small rectangular window. But the door to room 161 has something extra: stick-on letters in the window that read: "HEY! IT'S SGA!" The interior of the SGA office is just as inviting as the sign on the door –- Room 161 boasts a comfortable couch, a whiteboard with ideas and plans and a life-size paper maché Blazer, among other strange knacks.

But for many students at Blair, the SGA is neither inviting nor familiar. Despite the SGA's impressive repertoire of accomplishments – listed on large posters throughout Blair hallways – the SGA is may be, for the most part, an unknown entity to most Blazers.

An informal poll of 100 Blair students on Sept. 8 revealed that only 37 percent of students could name one or more SGA events throughout the school year, and only four percent of Blazers could name more than three. Members of the SGA have recognized this lack of awareness in students, and this year, the SGA – led by senior Eric Hysen as the President and sponsor Rondai Ravilious – has a new goal of increased student involvement. Through outreach programs and more school events, Blair's SGA hopes to promote and increase student awareness of the SGA's accomplishments.

A new agenda

SGA members acknowledge the gap between their team and the rest of the school population. "The big goal [this year] is shifting towards getting more student feedback," Hysen says. "The other big things are openness and accessibility."

This year, according to Hysen, the SGA will be adopting a grassroots approach to getting more student involvement. After implementing this plan to decide the homecoming theme, the SGA polled over 150 students via the SGA website and random sampling done by SGA cabinet members. "Once we show that we are out there and doing things, student response will follow," says Hysen, reflecting on the new SGA policies of involvement and input.

With the hope of increasing student participation, the SGA is planning new events, including a talent show, winter and spring dances, a Battle of the Bands and a Blair Idol show. The SGA also held a back-to-school barbeque on Sept. 8 before the first football game, to kick off the new school year.

Many Blazers attended the Sept. 8 barbeque, which drew a crowd as a "pre-game party" before the first football game of the season. To incorporate more student participation, the SGA asked several Blair bands and soloists to perform.

Senior Adam Goldman attended the barbeque and feels encouraged by the endeavors of the SGA. "It's a good thing that the SGA is going to have more events this year," he says. "There were a lot of people there and it was a good way to get ready for the football game."

For the SGA, the back-to-school barbeque was just the first step in integrating more student participation. Still, there is a long road to complete student involvement. Avi Silber, a performer at the barbeque, noted that the entertainers at the barbeque were mostly students with links to the SGA. "It wasn't the student body showing what they've got," he says. "The only people that performed were people who knew [about the event] or friends of the SGA members."

An effort to increase student awareness is not a policy unique to this year's administrations. SGA administrations in the past three years have put a lot of effort into student outreach, says Ravilious. The SGA cabinets under Sebastian Johnson (2004-2005), Barun Aryal (2005-2006) and now Eric Hysen (2006-2007) have been and are continuing to focus on getting certain groups more involved in the school. A big goal was met by the Aryal administration last year, when the SGA got an ESOL representative in office. Since last year, the new initiative to get ESOL students more involved in the SGA has been a very successful.

The "minority" report

ESOL department head Joseph Bellino is thrilled with the "tremendous gap bridging" that the SGA has done in the past year to improve communication between ESOL students and the SGA. This year, SGA's deputy director of club services, Abhishek Sinha, is an ESOL student. There are also two additional ESOL cabinet members in the SGA, Project Coordinator Long Nguyen and Class Representative Cindy Ayala, who was voted in by ESOL students last spring. "[The ESOL] election really made the students feel that their voice was important," Bellino remarks. "It has made [ESOL] students feel that they have a role in the school."

Ayala also agrees that the idea of having ESOL SGA representatives has given ESOL students a chance to play a bigger role in the school. "I think it's going great," she says. "More ESOL students are getting to know what's this, what's that. Now they at least know what SGA is."

The new SGA-ESOL partnership has also helped students who are new to ESOL get accustomed to Blair, instead of just the ESOL program. "The SGA ESOL representatives are helping the new [ESOL students] get used to school," says Flor Perez, a Blazer in her third year of ESOL. Before the back-to-school barbeque, SGA members put up posters throughout the school advertising the event. Instead of putting up a poster written in English outside the ESOL department, the SGA put up a large poster in written in Spanish to reach out to Spanish-speaking ESOL students.

In the past, ESOL students have shied away from involvement in Blair activities and events. Ayula, a Blair student in her fifth year of ESOL, understands this sentiment. "Most of the students who don't want to get involved, they say 'I don't fit in' or 'they won't understand me,'" she says. "They feel that it's hard for them not speaking English." Still, she wants more participation from fellow ESOL Blazers. "I want more ESOL students involved in school activities."

SGA members believe that once the SGA starts ensuring that Blazers are "in the loop," gives students a chance to express concerns and ideas and sponsors more activities for increased student participation, Blair students will automatically become more involved with their student government. "We're here to help people," Hysen says. "[Students] can always walk into the office. They can talk to us about any problems in the school, or any suggestions."



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  • Libertarian (View Email) on September 14, 2006 at 11:00 PM
    If the SGA had any power whatsoever, they might be a little familiar. When their "impressive" accomplishments are organizing social events and talking the the administration (which any of us can do BTW), no wonder no one knows what they do. Another thing they could do is to make public a way to contact SGA members, or the whole SGA in general, such as an email address. Maybe there is one, but I along with a whole lot of other kids in the school don't know about it.

    Let's get serious though, the SGA in any school is sort of like this. It's a popularity contest. The winners get to put it on their application, the administration's happy because they've given the students the idea that they have some power. Let's get real. The administration has veto power over everything. Doesn't sound much like a STUDENT Government Association.
  • =) on September 15, 2006 at 12:02 AM
    Good job on the article Priyanka! =) But was the sampling random or arbitrary...

    Good effort SGA...but good at paper does not always equal good in practice. Does the SGA have other ideas in case the ones they are implementing now do not work?
  • ids on September 15, 2006 at 9:36 PM
    Question: According to SGA, we're allowed to wear ID's at the waist, but then you get yelled at. How does that work?
  • Sarah on September 15, 2006 at 11:06 PM
    And the SGA can talk all they want about their amazing policies and how different they are from every other year of SGA ever, but that doesn't mean they're actually going to do anything worthwhile.
  • yay on September 16, 2006 at 9:27 PM
    i think the new SGA's doing a great job. their office is so busy at lunch, it's so funny.
  • yo (View Email) on September 17, 2006 at 2:18 PM
    what are
    "among other things knacks"
    at the end of the first paragraph?
  • ... on September 17, 2006 at 2:22 PM
    Blazers can contact members of the SGA pretty easily. The SGA website (sga.mbhs.edu) allows commenting and is frequently updated. And the SGA office is almost always open during lunch.
  • Will Bucher (View Email) on September 17, 2006 at 9:24 PM
    The "Knacks" inculde a microwave, fridge, and TV among it's top ranks, I'm unaware of exact details.

    It'd also like to say any organization who needs to brag about how much they've done hasn't done enough. In the words of FDR, "I run countries, not elections." The SGA could take some advice from that statment.

    WillIVRooster
  • Eric Hysen (View Email) on September 18, 2006 at 4:28 PM
    Will,

    The fridge, microwave, and similar items are all brought in to the office by SGA members, and remain private property while they are stored there. They are not purchased with SGA or school funds, and this information is clearly posted on the items. The SGA Office has a TV like every other room in the school to watch Info Flow.

    Now, to get to the main part of your statement, I definitely don't see this article as "bragging" about what we've done. It's still the first month of the school year, and the SGA is a work in progress. Even so, out of the nine Silver Chips Online news stories posted this month, six mention SGA in some way (including one article you wrote). I’m proud of that, and hope to continue the trend throughout the year. I’m also a little surprised that you, being one of my coworkers on Silver Chips Online, would consider this article “bragging,” as there are some clear criticisms of our work in it, which we’ve taken into account and will use to improve our events in the future.

    Now, after a fairly complete search on the subject, I'm pretty sure FDR never said "I run countries, not elections." The validity of the quote notwithstanding, I still fail to understand how, after you've complained to everyone you can in any position of authority in the school, you still continue to take pot shots at my election last spring.

    Moving on, your quote may be fabricated, but there is an old proverb that says "if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem." I hope you’ll think about how this applies to you.

    Perhaps you wouldn’t be so "unaware of exact details," as you say, had you not chosen to reject my offers of an SGA position last May. I invite and encourage you and every other student to stop by the SGA Office and volunteer to help out, instead of just sitting on the sidelines and baselessly criticizing us.

    Eric Hysen
  • (View Email) on September 18, 2006 at 6:02 PM
    To Sarah-
    "that doesn't mean they're actually going to do anything worthwhile."
    If someone wants to see something happen that they find "worthwhile" I suggest they take some initiative and bring it up with SGA. As Anonymous said- the SGA is really easy to contact by their website or by popping in the office during lunch, and I'm sure if you have any ideas they would be glad to hear them. Of course nothing "worthwhile" will get done if everyone keeps on criticizing instead of doing.


  • guy (View Email) on September 21, 2006 at 1:34 PM
    SGA is pointless.
  • Libertarian (View Email) on September 21, 2006 at 7:45 PM
    "Even so, out of the nine Silver Chips Online news stories posted this month, six mention SGA in some way (including one article you wrote)."

    If there were 6 articles about any other organizations, there'd be accusations of bias. Does it help that the President of the SGA works for Silver Chips and that there is at least one other member of the SGA on Silver Chips?

    I am still waiting for things they actually do that help the students. I am convinced (as I think most other students are) that the SGA is an organization to make it look like the students have a voice. The administration puts it up, pretending they have power, but then put stuff in their Constitution such as the administration has final veto power over ANYTHING. What's that S stand for?

    "there is an old proverb that says 'if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.'"

    And that proverb is complete nonsense (sorry, can't put the word I really want to use because of SCO's policy). You aren't helping out in Iraq are you? You must be part of the problem. Pointing out flaws can help be part of the solution anyway. And Will did try to become part of the solution last year when running for office. If he had had some ideas of things to do rather than complaints, I think he would have won. The problem is he still couldn't do anything because they have no power, but at least he would have made it known that the administration was the problem, and not the SGA. Now we have Eric, who although gets along with the administration, and probably is listened to more by the administration, that's all they have to do. Listen to him, smile, and say "no, we're the administration, you're the students. We have complete power". The point is the SGA has yet to do something that represented the students anyway. Hell most people don't know half the people in SGA anyway. I'll bet most people wouldn't even recognize Eric walking down the halls as the SGA President. They are all talk, no action. The administration can pretend that we have a voice, but the point is this school is an oligarchy, that's a fact. They make the rules, we have to follow them. Sometimes they're nice enough to explain why it is the way it is, but when the best you can do is allow ID's to be worn other places, and listen to music at lunch (the ban was never enforced before anyway), you are not an SGA, representing students, you are a puppet government. But you're ok with that, you get to put that on your application, and I'm sure colleges will reward you for cooperating with the administration and being their tool. Have a nice day.
  • me on September 23, 2006 at 12:27 PM
    The SGA definatly does try. So does the school adminstration. Neither have gotten that far, but at least they've tried.

    Many people say that the SGA isn't getting us what we want. Well, it's true. But, what do we really want?

    "Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple." Dr.Seuss
  • 8 on September 23, 2006 at 2:54 PM
    Libertarian:

    Why are has SGA dominated the SCO headlines recently? Simple: It's been a slow news month. The SGA office is right next door to the Chips lab, and there is almost always somebody there. And the SGA people always have some weird project or other that nobody else knows about. It's a treasure trove of easy stories for a writer that needs to make his or her monthly quota.
  • senior on September 23, 2006 at 5:48 PM
    Apathy - Lack of interest or concern, especially regarding matters of general importance or appeal; indifference.

    That's Blair for you.
  • Libertarian (View Email) on September 23, 2006 at 7:08 PM
    "The SGA definatly does try. So does the school adminstration." - me (as in the user me, not me as in myself)

    Really. Why exactly do we need ID's again? We've been here what, at least 3 weeks with no ID's. Any attacks on the school? Anything go wrong? How can they possibly say we need ID's after a perfectly fine start of school with no ID's?

    Are they trying to help us? Or controll us? Is there any real purpose to ID's?
  • SGA member on September 23, 2006 at 10:51 PM
    Okay. Okay. So some students join the SGA and other clubs/sports teams to get it on their college applications. Look at National Honor Society. Look at Key Club. Even look at Silver Chips. Do people join just to put it on their college applications/resumes? Yes. It's a fact and we all know it. But accusing all SGA members of being that way is simply unfair. There are some people who do it because they enjoy it, because it is their passion, because they see a purpose or whatnot. And we would like to think that most members of each organization is one of them.

    It really is difficult being in SGA because yes- the administration does have final say on most issues. But on the other hand, the SGA is effective in providing some sort of student voice. Do we want IDs? No. Are we going to get our way? No. But at least we voice our views about the subject. At least we try to invoke some sort of change. Maybe we can compromise. Maybe we can't. But it's slightly better than nothing at all. You're going to find a similar situation at all schools, but our SGA can say that they have made an honest effort that has had honest (sometimes not the prettiest results).

    So Libertarian, Will, and everyone else out there--what kind of things do you want to SGA to do? How do you want us to invoke change? How do you want us to "actually help the students?" Everything is a work in progress.

    It's great that people have so many strong opinions about SGA and want to voice their dissatisfaction- but why are you dissastisfied? What do you want to see? What do you want to change? How are you going to take action? What do you find important? Why should other people find it important too?

    Instead of saying things like "SGA does nothing." Why don't you try to change it? And if your response is "I don't care enough to change it." Why do you care enough to complain about it?
  • Republican on September 24, 2006 at 10:44 AM
    The SGA people have an additional class in their schedules. The president even has two additional classes. In addition, they are in the SGA office during lunch. Yet, their accomplishments are minimal.

    They did not make any major policy changes. Last year, we're finally allowed to wear id's on the waist. Let me mention almost half of the school doesn't even wear their id's.

    Now, we're allowed to listen to music during lunch. Last time I've been to the SAC, there were only like 3 people listening to music.

    There are probably many others that I missed and probably the rest of the school missed because they were so miniscule. But point is, the SGA is doing almost nothing in that extra class period of theirs to think up of great ideas to improve the school. So, in the time it takes to learn calculus, the SGA members are accomplishing trivial things like tweaking an id policy that needs more than just tweaking and making policies that do not affect even the majority of blazers.

    And just look at the article. What is the SGA boasting that they did? What are these revolutionary policies? They allowed an ESOL representative to come into the useless organziation, which does absolutely nothing. They held a barbeque where not even 1/10 of the school population attended.
    And now, they start to take polls to understand the students' views. Polls do nothing. Numbers mean nothing. They gotta start making policies that actually do something.

    And what does the president do? He makes a claim that it's only the first month of school. I'd be surprised if the subsequent months would be any more eventful than the first month.
  • Someone you may know on September 25, 2006 at 12:44 AM
    To Republican:
    I find a lot of people using their MP3 players during lunch. At my table consisting of approximately 8 people, I would guess 5 of them were listening to their MP3 player. "Numbers mean nothing." And yet you used [completely fake] numbers to support your argument.

    To Will:
    You lost, get over it. Everyone is sick of hearing you bash the SGA just because you didn't win.

    To everyone who says the SGA doesn't do anything:
    Then why don't you join? Clearly, there are positions available, seeing as how many candidates run unopposed. Or better yet, if it's so easy to talk to the administration [which I have never tried, so this isn't sarcasm], then do it already! Cut out the middle man! Or tell other people how easy it is instead of sitting on your lazy behind and saying that the SGA sucks! As for getting rid of IDs, that will never happen and you know it. Don't blame the SGA for a policy that's been around for years. Hysen did manage to change the policy this year regarding replacement IDs, but since the whole ID distribution has been wacked this year, no one has seen it in effect yet.

    As for the SGA being in a lot of SCO articles, well, what else is there to talk about? The power outage, Harvard/Princeton changing their admission policies and sports [which not everyone cares about]...wow, that's enough news to last for the four weeks school has been in session.

    Now, I may sound like I support the SGA. I don't because I know a lot of the members do not care about SGA or even Blair. But I have no actual suggestions for what they should do [apart from kick some people out], so I'm not going to complain about it.
  • Libertarian (View Email) on September 25, 2006 at 8:55 PM
    "Instead of saying things like "SGA does nothing." Why don't you try to change it? And if your response is "I don't care enough to change it." Why do you care enough to complain about it?" - SGA member

    Because there is no way it will ever do anything. The administration has veto power over EVERYTHING they do. I don't see any big problems with student representation. The admin has been open, I've talked with many members of the admin countless times. But I haven't needed the SGA to do so. I'm not even complaining about the fact that they do nothing. I'm complaining about the fact that they do nothing and then have the nerve to brag about everything they do. NHS (mentioned by someone earlier) is the same way. They don't do anything, it's just for college apps, no one really cares. But SGA pretends to do stuff for the students, and then there's several SCO articles about them. It's almost as if some mebers of Silver Chips are also members of SGA. Oh wait there are? Hmm.
  • Republican on September 26, 2006 at 5:57 PM
    Someone you may know,
    Similarly, at the table I sit during lunch, not a single person listens to music. You may sit at an outlier table. Besides, the number I used was just for emphasis on the number of people who used the SGA's new policy, it's much better than a few people.
    Will is not bashing the SGA because he lost. Am I dissatisfied with the SGA because I lost an election? No. Then why does he have to be dissatisfied with the SGA? Because the "big" and "powerful" SGA president just couldn't keep himself from rubbing it in? Notice how the words are in quotes?

    I agree completely with Libertarian. The SGA still hasn't managed to accomplish anything and require Silver Chips to boost their support.
  • Someone you may know on September 27, 2006 at 4:15 PM
    To Republican:

    Before the election results, Will usually only went after Eric Hysen. Now the entire SGA is at fault for everything. He is rather bitter at times about it. But just because you do not insult the SGA because you lost does not mean that is true of everyone who has ever lost an election. Anyway, that was a personal issue that is based on more than his comment on this article.

    I wonder though...Will seems so against the knacks in the SGA office now, would he have been if he had won the election?

    Did you think that you may sit at the outlier table? Next time you are in the SAC, why not look around at the other tables or the lunch line or by the chairs by the Media Center? The fact that no one at your table listens to MP3 players is in no way related to the rest of the student body. Also, your original statement implied that out of all the people in the SAC, only 3 of them listened to MP3 players, which is definately not true.

    The SGA members are not writing the articles [at least the SGA members I know] and if my knowledge is correct [forgive me if it isn't], Eric Hysen is the only member of the SGA and Silver Chips to be interviewed in an article.
  • Libertarian (View Email) on September 28, 2006 at 8:27 PM
    "I wonder though...Will seems so against the knacks in the SGA office now, would he have been if he had won the election?" - Someone You May Know

    Nope. He would actually be trying to get something done. He wouldn't be able to, and he would get upset. Hopefully he would actually voice to the administration that the fact that students have no voice yet they create the SGA to pretend they do is complete BS. He wouldn't have accomplished anything differently, but he would have made the truth widely known. Maybe he wouldn't have worked as well with the administration, but I still think Will would have done a much better job.

    BTW, on the topic of MP3 players, did you not see last year? So many people used them even when they were "banned". It was never enforced, and the worst was always, "put it away" after which people would put it on right after the security guy left.
  • To Republican on October 4, 2006 at 4:24 PM
    After disagreeing with you on a number of topics, i think i might actually agree with you on this one. I think everyone can agree the SGA lacks power. Not only that, but yes, they do seem to act as if they are the voice of the students (which they arent). In all truth, the SGA is obsolete, and should either A. start doing things which actually make a difference or B. Stop acting as if they already do.
  • question on October 5, 2006 at 6:10 PM
    "In all truth, the SGA is obsolete, and should either A. start doing things which actually make a difference or B. Stop acting as if they already do."-To Republican

    So what things should they start doing to actually make a difference? Maybe if you have some good ideas those of us not in SGA can try to get them done too?
  • unknown on October 5, 2006 at 10:15 PM
    Here's a suggestion: how about tweaking the policy of bathroom-only-between-classes?? I believe this policy is a serious breach of human rights, and that any person who wishes to use the restroom, be it during class or after class, have that right.

    There is something to work on...
  • Eli Barnett on October 10, 2006 at 8:19 PM
    to unknown: Come on, the SGA cant do crap about that. All the SGA can do is organize dances and apparently decorate the school.

    And yes, i know option A is impossible, i posted it for a reason.
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