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Student government representatives learn
from counterparts at national summit
Oct. 31, 2012
The officers of the Community College of Rhode Island student government face a challenging job: representing thousands of students, many of whom attend part time, across four different campuses and two satellite locations.
Seeking help with this task, 15 members from all three CCRI student governments (the Newport County Campus does not have a government) recently attended a National Student Government Summit just outside Washington, D.C.
Students attended workshops, presentations and roundtable discussions about problems facing their campuses and governments. Topics included the encouragement of student participation, handling money, parliamentary procedure, media relations and much more.
The event, sponsored by the American Student Government Association, attracted more than 800 student government officers from all over the country and was the largest gathering of its kind this year.
CCRI students at the summit took particular care to meet representatives from colleges similar in size and organization to CCRI, especially those with multiple campuses.
“One of the biggest things I got out of the experience was meeting people from other schools and realizing they had very similar problems to ours,” said James Gracik, president of the Knight Campus Student Government.
Liz McQuillan, Liston Campus student government president, said it was beneficial for the members of all three student governments to attend the summit together and meet counterparts from other colleges.
“I always feel like it’s important to get to know other student governments, not just in the area but throughout the country,” she said. “I just feel like it’s really valuable to see another person’s perspective and see people who are involved in student government at their colleges.”
A big problem facing all of CCRI’s student governments, McQuillan said, is getting the attention of the student body. The student governments represent CCRI students during disputes and negotiations with the college administration, oversee student clubs and activities and plan special events, yet only about 300 of CCRI’s nearly 18,000 students voted in the last election.
CCRI’s student government members want to increase participation and get the word out that they are here to help students.
At the summit, they found that student governments across the country are facing the same problem and shared ways to overcome it.
“Only about 4 or 5 percent of the students vote, and that needs to be improved upon,” said Cody Fino, president of the Flanagan Campus student government. “After that trip, [increasing student participation] has became one of my goals.”
Fino suggested that election events go on for a full week to ensure that part-time students are aware of the election and that nonpartisan volunteers hand out materials about each of the candidates.
Other problems discussed at the summit included resolving communications issues within student governments and the most equitable way to distribute money to student clubs.
Associate Dean of Student Life Christine Jenkins said the most important thing gained was contacts from many different colleges. She deemed the trip, the second of its kind for CCRI student government, a success.
“It gave us a network,” she said. “I think the students should go to it every year because it’s all about what we do here.”
She added that the skills the students learned at the summit will help them serve the larger population of CCRI students. “This is an incredible group we have here,” she said. “They’re here for all the students, not just themselves.”