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ISSUE 117 VOL 1 PUBLISHED 9/19/2003

Doin' It: Seth Heringer, SGA vice president

By Daniel Grupe
Staff Writer

Friday, September 19, 2003

There seems to be a common misconception about the role that student government plays at St. Olaf. Many college students tend to compare the Student Government Association (SGA) to their high school student governments, which are often benign, powerless organizations. SGA, however, is much more than the average high school student council.

According to Seth Heringer ‘05, a classics and philosophy major and SGA vice president, “SGA runs almost everything on campus not done by faculty.” While this seems like a bold statement, SGA, directly or indirectly, does indeed organize, fund and provide facilities for almost every activity or organization on campus.

As the second-in-command of SGA, after President Christie Larson ’04, Seth has a lot on his proverbial plate. Heringer struggles to balance the duties of his office with a full load of coursework. He estimates that he spends about 30 hours in his office every week, most of which is focused solely on SGA.

What has he been working on during that time? Heringer gestures to a whiteboard filled with his current to-do list, which includes planning the Senate retreat, finalizing this year’s Senate calendar, and arranging and overseeing much of the upcoming elections. As vice president, Seth is the chairman of the Senate (or just “Chair,” as he prefers to be called) and spends much of his time working directly with that organization.

The Senate took some criticism last year for its role in two very public issues – the proposed funding cut of the popular student publication The Roast, and a four-week discussion about a public resolution stating St. Olaf’s position on the situation in Iraq. Heringer is well aware of the criticism of the Senate, and has his own perspective on the issues at hand. Like many others, Seth was greatly dismayed that so much time was spent discussing the Iraq resolution. “Senate’s focus should be on things on campus, things that we can change and affect,” he said, “we spent nine hours – four full meetings – discussing the Iraq resolution. What if those 40 senators, and all the other students at those meetings, had spent that time talking about what could be done to improve Olaf?”

The Roast issue, on the other hand, was a “successful exchange between Senate and the student body,” Heringer said. “Students learned a great deal about free speech, its role in private and public institutions and whether student funds being cut is the same thing as stopping free speech.”

Besides those two weeks, student participation in Senate meetings was less than excellent last year. “Senate needs input from students. We can’t do our jobs without new, fresh input … our job would be much easier if 3,000 people came to us with ideas.”

While the fire marshal might have some qualms about 3,000 people filing into the David E. Johnson Boardroom for a Senate meeting, Seth would love for more student participation and awareness of Senate. He wants to clear up the misconception that Senate is simply a place where students argue about “whether we’re going to hand out Slinkies or beanbags … and every once in a while, when we’re bored, come up with a resolution on war. That is not what Senate does.”

Senate’s responsibilities include serving as a liaison between students and the administration and helping decide how to distribute SGA’s $472,000 budget. “If there was one thing I could tell students now, please, I’m begging you, come to Senate meetings!” Heringer said.

Anybody can come to the meetings, held every Thursday at 6:30 p.m., and listen, speak up, or even be placed on the meeting agenda – provided they are pre-approved by Heringer.

While Seth’s main focus is on Senate, there is much more to SGA than this organization. SGA, which Heringer compares to “a beluga,” has eleven “subcommittees,” each of which has the happiness and well-being of Olaf students as its objective.

“[SGA’s] goal is to make college life fun,” Heringer said, “after hours, after classes are done. All the concerts, magicians, comedians, volunteer network, speakers, dinners, clubs, intramurals, diversity celebrations, lobbying to the administration – the list goes on – it’s all done by SGA.”

Heringer has an immediate answer when questioned about what to look forward to from SGA this year: “The mechanical bull is going to be lots of fun.” When pressed, the vice president was able to come up with several other new events and programs. Elections for student senate will be held online this year, from Sept. 22-24. Talkback Tuesdays will continue with a brand new Talkback Tuesday Senator, and students will have a monthly opportunity to ask any questions about SGA during community time in Boe Chapel.

As for the question on everybody’s minds, the performer at this year’s fall concert, Heringer divulged the big secret. “I’m not supposed to tell anybody this,” Seth whispers while leaning forward, “but I’ve got one word for you. Hanson.”

While Hanson is about as likely as Billy Ray Cyrus is to make an appearance on the Hill, SGA nevertheless has a full year of activities planned. “SGA is doing a lot for people who care,” Heringer said in response to those who downplay SGA’s role on campus. “Those interested in bettering themselves, in getting involved, those are the students that we reach.

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