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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

New committee in town: Chairperson discusses role of new government oversight committee in SGA

Government+Oversight+Committee+Chairsperson+Jay+Thompson+speaks+to+the+Student+Senate+on+Oct.+4.
Mia Hennen
Government Oversight Committee Chairsperson Jay Thompson speaks to the Student Senate on Oct. 4.

Jay Thompson said he’s probably tallied over 700 hours working over the four years he’s served on Wichita State’s Student Government Association – he’s now in his fifth year.

Over the years, Thompson has worked in different capacities in SGA. Last year, he served as the policy director under John Kirk’s administration. Now, he’s chairing a committee that didn’t exist until this year: the Government Oversight Committee.

“Essentially, this role oversees policies related to SGA’s finance procedures, the civic engagement directory agencies, and essentially pretty much all policies of the bylaws that aren’t already covered by the other committees, so it’s a big umbrella,” Thompson said.

Thompson said his interests are mostly in policy work, and his work as policy director last year gave him plenty of ideas on how to improve and change things in the association.

“I’ve put a lot of thought into student government and its processes, and it is more complicated than even the surface level shows (that) it’s complicated, for good and bad,” Thompson said.

According to Thompson, the new committee has three main “pillars:” bylaw reform, legitimizing SGA accountability and civic engagement.

Thompson dove into what these pillars look like for the committee:

“Bylaw reform”

As far as bylaw reform, Thompson said there are a lot of smaller items to be done, but one thing he focused on in the summer was a recommendation from the Ethics and Accountability Taskforce.

“Essentially, (the recommendation) just gets rid of confusion in our membership review board processes and the chapter in our bylaws about our ethics,” he said.

Thompson also discussed the “whole conflict of interest discussions” within SGA. In August, former senators from SGA shared concerns they had about the application process for positions in the executive branch. This followed initial concerns about cabinet appointments.

“We feel like all cabinet positions should be confirmed by Senate,” Thompson said. “But based on concerns that students have, I’m sure we’ll also look into requiring that every candidate gets an interview because that’s not currently how it is per the Supreme Court’s opinion recently.” 

Thompson said clarifying rules would help prevent issues in the future.

“Legitimizing SGA accountability”

While Thompson said he’s been impressed with the communication between the different branches of SGA, he said there are some areas he hopes to approve accountability in, like ensuring action beyond legislation’s passage.

“There have been complaints in the past about how we haven’t acted on legislation before, but I think there’s not (a) complete understanding about who exactly needs to be doing that,” Thompson said. “On one hand, that’s what the executive branch is for, but on the other hand, we’re an all-encompassing student government; we should all be involved.”

Thompson also discussed the importance of reporting infractions in SGA when they happen.

“We don’t want stuff from far in the past to suddenly be brought up when it could have been brought up immediately (and been) addressed, especially not making a whole hoopla out of it,” he said.

“Civic engagement”

Thompson said a goal of his is to register 100 voters through Wichita State’s Shocker Vote! Coalition, a group that he works closely with.

As of Sept. 21, the coalition had registered a couple dozen new voters, according to Thompson.

Thompson also wants the Student Senate to interact with the District 1 Advisory Board and Shocker Neighborhood. 

Overall Senate goals

Thompson also touched on some other goals for the Senate, like increasing diverse student representation.

“I think the effort is showing some fruit that we are increasing representation in SGA,” Thompson said. “We have seen a lot of resignations in Senate recently, which is upsetting, but coming back from it, we’re appointing a lot of new people.”

With several years of SGA under his belt, Thompson said a theme he’s noticed emerge in the Senate this year is “maturity.”

“In the past, I have seen some immaturity in Senate,” he said. “But this year, we have faced some real issues, some real-world challenges. And though we’ve seen some resignations … those individuals that have committed themselves to this are taking it very seriously, and I’m very proud of them for that.”

Student Senate meets biweekly in the Rhatigan Student Center’s Sante Fe Room. The next meeting will be on Oct. 18 at 6:30 p.m. The meetings can also be watched via livestream

On the Senate’s off weeks, all SGA committees and subcommittees, including the Government Oversight Committee, also meet in the RSC.

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About the Contributor
Mia Hennen, Editor in Chief
Mia Hennen is the current editor in chief for The Sunflower. Before becoming editor, Hennen was the news/managing editor. They are a junior at Wichita State majoring in English and minoring in communications and Spanish, hoping to pursue any career involving writing or editing. Hennen uses they/them pronouns.

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