SGA to improve effectiveness through research, College of Communication committee approved


Kiersten Riedford

Kevin Holechko (right), SGA president and senior, and Magoli Garcia (left), SGA vice president and junior, were an uncontested match for the 2022 spring presidential election.

In the spring 2021 Student Government Association (SGA) election, 595 students voted for the presidential race. In the spring 2022 election, the number of students who voted in the presidential race reduced to 351.

At the SGA meeting on Sept. 22, SGA senator for fourth and fifth-year students David Hupp presented these statistics to the members during a presentation on the effectiveness and student awareness of SGA. Lots of faces in the rooms had either a look of shock or disappointment at these low numbers of engagement with SGA. 

According to the DePaul Institutional Research & Market Analytics (IRMA) enrollment statistics, spring 2021 enrollment was 19,008 students total, and spring 2022 enrollment was 18,663 students total. Meaning that the turnout for the spring 2021 SGA presidential race was 3.13% and that turnout for the spring 2022 SGA presidential race was 1.88%. 

The turnout in Spring 2022 was 40% lower than in Spring 2021. 

“For comparison, according to outside research, typical student government election turnout at other universities is around 15-20%,” Hupp said. “So the turnout at DePaul is absolutely abysmal.”

The low voter turnout can mean a lot of things, but most notably is students’ lack of knowledge of SGA. To combat this, SGA members are working towards being more involved this year, beginning with the Blue Demon Welcome during Welcome Week. Members and senators are aiming to be at larger events and making an increased presence on campus, according to Kevin Holechko, SGA president and senior.

But in terms of the decline of the number of voters SGA already had, Hupp said it “was almost definitely” due to the fact that the race for president and vice president was uncontested in spring. 

“Having a contested presidential race is generally considered by outside research to be a strong determinant of turnout,” Hupp said.

But while the voting numbers seem drastically low, this was also a “convenience sample” collection of data, Hupp said. He said SGA needs to and will continue to perform research on SGA effectiveness and awareness on an ongoing, regular basis. 

“SGA needs to survey its constituents at regular intervals, first to establish a statistical baseline and then to track changes over time in constituent sentiment and behavior,” Hupp said. “One of the core goals of the ad hoc committee will be developing a sustainable framework for SGA to indefinitely continue this ongoing constituent engagement research, eventually enabling analysis of longer-term constituent engagement trends.”

When continuing research, Hupp said SGA will be negotiating with the university administration to run the survey again, this time with an appropriate representative subset of the student body. 

Hupp said the committee designated to research would most likely partner with IRMA to conduct the survey with a better sample. IRMA is the division that conducts that kind of research for the university along with IRMA having the necessary access to conduct a statistically representative sample.

Following Hupp’s presentation, Avery Schoenhals, senator for the College of Communication and sophomore, motioned for a new committee composed of student leaders from the college to be created. 

Schoenhals said this committee would be a bridge between SGA, the students in the College of Communication and the university leadership.

“College of Communication students should know that this committee is an extension of the representation they already have through myself and others in SGA,” Schoenhals said. “The members of the committee will have a direct line to university leadership and staff and will be able to clearly advocate for the best interests of all students. Being on the committee allows members to ensure that the voices of their peers and their organizations are being echoed to the leadership of the college and of the university.”

Aside from benefiting students with university leadership connections to get more done within the college, Schoenhals said the committee will focus on other subjects such as working towards open-source textbooks in classes and hosting more networking event opportunities for students within the college.

“I think that there are opportunities to network, but many students still feel that the college is disjointed,” Schoenhals said. “I want to work with our college’s leaders on not only continuing to create events that allow students to network but also communicating these opportunities frequently and well in advance to give students a chance to plan to attend. The college-wide D2L page is a great start, and I hope that students take advantage of this resource to find events and programs within the college that are available to them.” 

Schoenhals said his biggest goal for this committee is to build unity in the College of Communication.

“My biggest goal with this committee is to bring more unity to our student population,” Schoenhals said. “With two campuses, a large number of commuter students, and a variety of programs, it can be challenging to create a sense of community. I hope that by the end of this year, myself and the committee will be able to honestly say that we brought a heightened sense of community to the college.”

As SGA works to build more bridges with the student body and increase engagement with the organization, creating committees like the College of Communication Advisory Ad Hoc Committee is a great start. But SGA does not plan to stop with this committee, Schoenhals said.

“Our General Body was eager to approve this committee during Thursday’s meeting, and I know that they’ll be supportive of the committee and the initiatives that we come up with as we move further into the year.”

Throughout the school year, senators for colleges other than the College of Communication will be creating ad hoc committees to allow students to reach university leadership and improve their college. 

To join the College of Communication Advisory Ad Hoc Committee, Schoenhals said student leaders can email him with an introduction of themselves and why they are interested in joining the committee. He can be reached at [email protected].