History of the Student Government Association of Western Kentucky University
Student participation in the administration of the University began in 1956 with the creation of the Student Advisory Council. The Student Advisory Council was the first organization of its type in the school’s history. It was formed to assist administrators in planning for the welfare of the student body and to keep President Kelly Thompson apprised of “student trends and ideas.” Members of the Student Advisory Council included the four class presidents, departmental club presidents, and the editors of the yearbook, the Talisman, and the campus newspaper, the College Heights Herald. Its early concerns included parking, student honors and awards, registration procedures, Western’s social policy and the student handbook.
Although President Thompson expected the Council to become the nucleus for student government (it drafted a constitution for “The Student Council of Western Kentucky State College” in February 1963), interest in the Council gradually faded due to dissatisfaction with the narrowness of its membership, its lack of influence on issues students considered important, and general apathy. In the mid-1960s, student free speech advocates, concerned in particular about journalistic freedom for the Herald, revived the idea of a campus-wide organization.
On February 23, 1965, a group led by student Robert N. Johns met at the Courthouse to hold discussions, but disbanded after its second meeting on March 4 because the administration, nervous about the possibility of outside influence by Communists or other subversives, refused to recognize it. President Thompson, however, had already begun to search for a workable plan of student government.
In March and April 1965, the Congress Debating Club sponsored three meetings on campus to discuss the creation of such a body. In response to a plan proposed by Dean of Students Charles Keown, a 16-member organizational committee was created that included the class presidents together with representatives of the departmental clubs, honor and professional societies, residence halls, and Interfraternity and Panhellenic Councils. The organizational committee began meeting in the fall of 1965 to draft a constitution.
By February 1966, the Herald was growing impatient, urging the committee to complete its initial draft. “A student government is needed to act as an organized liason between the students and the faculty, administration, and outside community. It is needed to coordinate activities of the various campus organizations. A government is needed to aid in bringing top-flight speakers and entertainers to the campus,” wrote the editors. “THIS IS NO EASY TASK!” retorted the committee chairman, but promised a constitution and ratification vote before the end of the semester.
Associated Students - Our "Foundation"
The proposed constitution for the Associated Students of Western Kentucky University was completed in late March, 1966 and President Thompson approved it on April 1. In a ratification vote held April 26-29, the student body voted 1,812 to 726 to adopt the constitution. On May 18, James P. “Jim” Haynes won election as the Associated Students’ first president.
On April 7, 1992, the Associated Students voted to change its name to the Student Government Association. The name change was approved in an April 14 student referendum and became effective in fall 1992. After the Constitutional Convention of 2004, the Student Government Association had several major changes. Today, unlike when first founded, there are three branches, as well as a pool of students coming from the body as a whole rather than a certain constituency. The branches today are the Executive Cabinet, the Senate, and the Judicial Council. The SGA is governed by its Constitution and By-Laws. With the new constitution, all members of the student body are members of the Student Government Association and have the right to vote in SGA elections.
The Executive Cabinet is composed of a President (who serves as Student Regent to the WKU Board of Regents, and serves as Student Body President), Executive Vice President (Who serves on the Student Life Foundation, and serves as Student Body Vice President), Administrative Vice President, Chief of Staff, Director of Academic and Student Affairs, Director of Public Relations, and the Director of Information Technology. The President, Executive Vice President, and Administrative Vice President are elected by the student body each spring; the other positions are chosen by the President after their election. The Speaker of the Senate, who is the leader of the Senate, serves as an ex officio member of the Executive Cabinet.
The Student Senate is composed of student senators, the Secretary of the Senate, the parliamentarian, the sergeant at arms, and its leader, the Speaker of the Senate. The Senate meets weekly and discusses legislation in the forms of bills and resolutions in the standing and ad hoc committees. There are five standing committees, which each have a chairman, vice-chairman, and secretary. Those committees are Academic Affairs, Campus Improvements, Legislative Research, Public Relations, and Student Affairs. Each committee meets weekly to discuss and create legislation.
The Judicial Council is made up of five associate justices, one Associate Chief Justice, and one Chief Justice. Their major roles are to interpret SGA’s governing documents, verify if legislation is constitutional, and hold members of SGA accountable for attendance at meetings and conduct
Toward the Future
SGA celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2016 and the spirit that inspired those early SGA members lives on!