By Maggie Urban-Waala and Jesse BadeSpecial to the Chronicle and Staff Writer
Ben Schaefer, displeased senator and cabinet member, publicly resigned from his post at the end of last Thursday’s Student Government Association meeting.
Schaefer is a junior at Hofstra and has been very active in SGA for the last two years. He dealt with records of all Hofstra clubs as Rules Chair. Schaefer took a position in SGA with the belief that it would help him to foster his interest in law, politics and the Hofstra community as a whole.
Even those closest to Schaefer were unaware of his intentions to resign at the initially standard meeting. The climactic moment occurred only after all of the routine procedures ended, directly following the induction of the organization’s new senators. Schaefer’s announcement left the members of the senate, especially the new members, in a state of shock.
“Hofstra Student Government Association,” said Schaefer, “it is my sincerest belief that we do not deserve the respect of the student body at large.”
The former Rules Chair believes that SGA is no longer a servant of the student body, but rather a governing organization that seeks to serve itself more than its community of students.
Schaefer said that SGA has “succumbed to the petty pleasure of appeasing those in positions of higher power than ourselves; speaking not on behalf of students to administrators, but of administrators to students.”
Schaefer revealed more specific reasoning behind his decision to leave SGA following the eventful meeting. Many of the issues he had with the organization centered on his belief that there is a general lack of enthusiasm when it comes to the overall purpose of SGA. Select individuals, Schaefer included, put excessive efforts into areas such as recruitment, while others did not put in the time and did not acknowledge those who did.
Schaefer is not alone in his belief that SGA is not performing its duties. Previous and current members share his concerns on the matter.
Gary Duff, a former senator, resigned one year ago with a similar dissatisfaction with the way that SGA was functioning as a whole. Duff felt that some individuals were doing their part, but that others had a general disregard for the members and fundamentals of the organization.
Duff also believes that the only solution is to reshape and rebuild the organization with stronger guidelines and with new members who will be passionate about their positions. SGA members should make choices for what is right, not what is expected.
Victoria Rametta, current SGA senator and Rules Committee member, stated that she had similar concerns when she spoke out during the meeting. Following Schaefer’s resignation, Rametta stood to express similar anxieties about how SGA is run and the efforts of the senators to educate and serve the student body.
Although Rametta expressed her love for SGA, she recognized the need for immediate change in the way it is functioning. “It’s been ‘changing’ for three years now,” said Rametta. “It’s time for results.”
Devotion to SGA like Rametta’s is not just a sentiment held by old members, but by the newly inducted senators as well.
Although the newest senators’ excitement about getting started in their new roles was put on hold for Schaefer’s announcement, it did not deter individuals such as Maria Camila Hernandez, a freshman and newly inducted senator. Hernandez reiterated her belief that she only felt more empowered and motivated, even after hearing Schaefer’s unsettling opinions. She and other senators, she said, are newly motivated to make sure that any problems are thoroughly fixed.
However, the need for drastic change is not a belief held by all in SGA. Robyn Kaplan, the SGA academic advisor, expressed her surprise at Schaefer’s resignation. As advisor, it is Kaplan’s duty to keep SGA on track and make sure it performs the duties it was made for. She disagrees with Schaefer’s opinion that SGA is serving its own selfish purposes.
“Everyone has and is entitled to their own opinion,” said Kaplan. “It is not the whole senate that shares his thoughts though.” She made sure to express the fact that one person’s opinion of a major problem is not always shared by the entire organization.
Similarly, Ron Singh, SGA vice president, stated that Schaefer’s view is a minority opinion.
“You could tell by the shock value around the table and you could tell by the people rallying together,” said Singh, referring to the multiple senators who stood up in camaraderie to express the importance and value of SGA.
Singh and Kaplan both recognized that there might have been frustrations stemming from the lack of manpower as a result of the graduation of nearly half the senate last year. But through focusing on recruitment and serving the students, said Singh, SGA has kept its fundamental values intact.
“I think you are leaving us with an awakening that we do have room for improvement, but I wish you could have stuck around to witness that,” said Singh.
Yet Schaefer felt strongly enough about the misguidedness of the organizations to conclude his resignation speech with the statement: “It is with absolutely and unwavering certainty that I resign from this post and from Student Government Association as a whole.
The president of the association, Tevon Hyman, plans to look into the issues that Schaefer brought up during the meeting.
“This organization can always do more and I intend to see that it does,” he said.