By Matt Carroll
IUP’s Student Government Association is taking a new tack to fix persistent problems with low membership, poor attendance and lack of diversity. It is turning to the Internet for help.
The SGA Web site (http://www.coop.iup.edu/sga/) has been updated for the first time since 2003, giving prospective members a chance to check out the organization from their own living rooms, officials said.
“Not having a Web site prevented me from joining when I was a freshman,” said SGA President Patrick Barnacle (senior, economics/English) during an Oct. 9 interview in his office in the HUB. “I don’t know why it wasn’t made a priority until now.”
The Web site gives the SGA a way to reach special interest groups. Barnacle said he sees an opportunity to help increase the diversity of SGA.
“By creating reciprocal links with organizations such as the Black Student League, SGA may be able to add minority members, a problem in the past,” Barnacle said.
But Barnacle acknowledges that the Web site remains a work in progress. And solutions to SGA’s membership problems are slow in coming.
The student-government council has 49 seats according to Article II, Section I of the SGA constitution. Fewer than half of the seats are filled. And attendance among members is low. At SGA’s Oct. 16 meeting, for example, 12 members were present, according to a head count. Two of those members were sworn in that night for their first meeting. Of the 12 senators present, four were female, and all were white.
With dozens of empty seats at SGA meetings, it might be time to alter SGA’s constitution, as Barnacle suggested following his April 2006 election to a one-year term. The constitutions of other state schools call for anywhere between 21 and 28 members of student government. These schools come much closer to filling their membership quotas, according to their Web sites.
Four State System of Higher Education schools that post student-government information online — Clarion, Slippery Rock, Lock Haven, and Kutztown universities — report fewer seats with more of them filled than IUP. Though these schools have lower enrollment, they have more student-government members.
SSHE schools with student-government bodies as large as IUP’s also manage better attendance. West Chester and Bloomsburg universities have student government memberships of 48 with fewer empty seats than IUP, according to their Web sites.
“We don’t have the members we would like,” Barnacle said. “We are starting to make progress. By the time I leave I hope that things are in better shape.”
Sidebar: Minority Voices Missing on SGA
By Matt Carroll
Minority students at Indiana University of Pennsylvania remain unrepresented in the Student Government Association.
When Patrick Barnacle (senior, economics/English) became president of an all-white SGA last spring, he made diversity a priority for the student-government body. But at the end of his first semester in office, little has changed.
“For the fall I will have failed,” Barnacle said in an Oct. 9 interview in his office. “But for the spring, I hope not.”
According to the IUP Trendbook, in 2005-06, 10,654 students listed an ethnicity.
Caucasians were the majority with 9,505 students, or 89 percent. Students of all other ethnicities totaled 1,149, or 11 percent.
Yet no minority students are members of SGA.
“We would like to have more minority students in SGA,” Barnacle said. “That’s obviously something we’ve had a problem with and we hope to change that.”
Barnacle is running out of time to fulfill that objective. He is entering his second and last semester as SGA president.
Sidebar: For More Information
IUP Student Government Association
SGA will provide students with more information, including how to help or join.
Patrick Barnacle, SGA president
Room 212, Hadley Union Building