By: Sarah Rowan, Assistant News Editor
The Student Government Association voted Nov. 3 to create a Freshman Council whose 20 members will shadow students leaders around campus, starting on a trial basis next semester.
The resolution, proposed by SGA Vice President Taylor James and authored by President Pro Tempore of the Senate Omnia Shedid, proposed that the Freshman Council would break into groups of five to observe SGA peer advisors in areas like academic involvement, civic engagement, diversity and athletics.
“I think that this is going to create something bigger than we imagined, because we’re talking about potentially changing the perspective of the freshman experience at Towson,” James said.
The SGA peer advisors include James, University Residence Government Vice President Peter Gallagher, three members of senate leadership and SGA Deputy Chief of Staff Natalie Hurley. The 20 freshmen will meet weekly with their advisor to discuss issues and projects, and will convene biweekly in a formal setting, similar to SGA meetings.
The first year of council members will be recommended by resident assistants and campus faculty members. They will then go through an application and interview process before being offered a position on the council.
In creating the council, James researched similar organizations at colleges and universities nationwide. She looked at schools such as University of South Carolina, Virginia Tech and University of Georgia and morphed their ideas into her own to form her proposal.
James saw the need to propose the council after having to turn away many strong freshman senator candidates at the beginning of the semester due to lack of space or time commitments. She also wanted to create another way for freshman to engage in university activities from the beginning of their career at Towson University.
“A lot of us, including myself, waited a year or so to get really involved, but if you have a way to get involved and feel connected to campus as soon as you get there, you’re going to build a connectedness and a responsibility to campus that you’re going to uphold hopefully during the time that you’re there and even after you graduate,” James said.
Both James and Shedid spoke to the importance of increasing leadership opportunities available to first-semester freshmen.
According to Shedid, the Freshman Council will be a “great gateway to being involved on campus.”
They also hope that the Freshman Council will provide an incentive for first-semester freshmen to remain at Towson for their college careers.
“When you have a reason to stay, you’re less likely to leave,” James said. “We’re trying to get more people to find something that they can love and own.”
Shedid described the council as a “stepping stone.”
“It’s important to us to do as much as we can and to provide as many opportunities as we can to the incoming freshmen and it’s important to us to understand that these new students coming in might not be as comfortable on campus yet,” Shedid said.
URG President Jon Connelly expressed the importance of a positive relationship between URG and the Freshman Council.
“Anything that really focuses on the freshman experience is almost always talking about the on-campus experience,” Connelly said. “URG does, and should, often take a lead on improving the on-campus experience, so when we heard about this, we felt it would be a natural fit for our organization to be involved.”
In terms of support from administration and other members of SGA, James noted that there were mixed reviews at first, but that after SGA voted on it, it was very well received. She said that there is a level of skepticism, but that people are willing to try it out.
Spring 2016 will be the “trial-run” of the council, and toward the end of March, James will write a formal proposal and evaluation of the council.
Shedid explained that while the Freshman Council does not guarantee entry into SGA, she hopes that it will give freshmen the courage to get even more involved on campus.
“I want them to be able to take their own initiatives and I want them to feel as though no idea is too big or too small, and that they can do it,” Shedid said. “If they want to see something done on campus, they can do it.”