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Opinion: SGA president reflects on promises

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Opinion: SGA president reflects on promises

Benjamin Weil and Blane Mader share an emotional moment of excitement as they are announced the new President and Vice President of SGA. Photo credit: Tristan Emmons

Benjamin Weil and Blane Mader share an emotional moment of excitement as they are announced the new President and Vice President of SGA. Photo credit: Tristan Emmons

Benjamin Weil and Blane Mader share an emotional moment of excitement as they are announced the new President and Vice President of SGA. Photo credit: Tristan Emmons

Benjamin Weil and Blane Mader share an emotional moment of excitement as they are announced the new President and Vice President of SGA. Photo credit: Tristan Emmons

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Ben Weil

Music Industry


There are six pieces of paper taped on the wall above my desk — each listing a different initiative for this school year. Every day, I come into the office, I sit down and I look up. I ask myself the same question over and over — “What are we going to do today to change Loyola?” Seeing the beautiful, unique, diverse faces of our campus as I walk through the Danna Center is my motivation to get up in the morning and answer that question.

When Blane and I were first elected, there was a brief sigh of relief before the inevitable real work started. Our names were announced on the Wednesday before spring break and I immediately left for the airport to board a flight to London to visit my brother who was studying abroad. I couldn’t stop smiling. Blane and I had just spent months secretly preparing for the campaign — followed by two and a half weeks of non-stop, no-sleep hard work which culminated at the moment where the flight attendant walked over to me and said, “Sir, would you like some complimentary wine or beer to go with your meal tonight?” We had just won the election. Who wouldn’t indulge?

I remember being told that I would be so busy as president that I wouldn’t be able to accomplish all of the initiatives on our six-point plan. At some point, I started to believe what they were saying. I told Abigail, our then recently appointed chief of staff, who replied, “No, you will accomplish these goals. You have to. This is what you promised to the entire student body.” It shook me to my core. I knew we could do it, but I had started to doubt myself. After that day, I framed my upcoming year in office as one big promise — a promise that I and my amazing cabinet were going to keep.

That summer, our SGA cabinet flew to Washington, D.C. to attend a conference for student leaders of Jesuit Colleges. During our stay at Georgetown, everything possible went wrong, but that didn’t stop us from loving it. Megan Bourg, our director of programming, had no working air conditioning in her room. Our director of communications, Koren Lewis, got so lost that she asked Georgetown students for directions and then asked why they were carrying two full bags of red Solo Cups and pingpong balls (we knew the answer). The sessions were educational and being introduced to other student government presidents motivated me. To see this inspiring group of people from all across the U.S. fighting for their students, I knew I wanted to do the same. After any hiccup on our trip, we laughed together as one big cabinet family, and I realized these were the people who were going to change Loyola. I wrote ideas down for each of them and, instead of enjoying the weeks left of summer break, I planned and planned to make sure that our promise would be fulfilled.

As the school year started, I took being president very seriously. At times, probably a little too seriously. It was a real job that made my classes seem more like a part-time internship. I loved my classes but wanted to invest myself in this experience doing everything I could to make a difference. We started with our “Find Your Loyola” initiative, where SGA promoted three fun Wolf Pack facts and programs that typically go unnoticed. I knew the initiative was a success when Kelsey Stelly came up to me and said, “My mom saw SGA’s post on Facebook and sent it to me! I didn’t know that I could get my graduate test reimbursed!” That was one of the coolest feelings.

At the same time, we began to make progress through our diversity initiative, which was based on giving underrepresented groups a seat at the table. We started the Loyola Student Leadership Council, comprised of students from all areas of campus who report on issues such as diversity, and other ways for Loyola to grow. I met with Dr. Anderson of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion who helped frame questions to ask the university presidential candidates, as I became the student voice on the search committee. We also co-programmed a viewing of Moonlight with the Multicultural Leadership Council and the Black Student Union, while the senate chartered countless diversity-based student organizations, including the Hispanic Music Appreciation club and Krewe Du Jew.

In November, Abigal, chief of staff, wrote a grant proposal for Coca-Cola to donate recycling bins for every floor of the residential halls, and we were one of 11 chosen from 800 submissions nationwide. Our push to go green was amplified by using executive funds to bring solar panel study benches to our green spaces. None of this would’ve been possible without many meetings, long nights writing proposals and practicing how to swing over votes on faculty boards. It was my job to prove that our initiatives were what students wanted and needed. It was all so much, and yet, so much fun. No matter how much you do, nothing fully prepares you for the roller coaster of the job.

This semester, Blane and I met with the Student Success Center to see if the university could encourage professors to make greater use of Blackboard to keep students updated on their grades. To our surprise, the university had been investing in software to make Blackboard more accessible to faculty. In addition, Student Success, along with the Career Center, helped us negotiate to bring a GRE test prep course to campus for students applying to graduate school. We fully funded 12 students to take the course, a goal we set during the campaign. Finally, we wrapped up our initiatives by pushing to support our student-athletes and teams — creating themed game days with prizes for bringing friends along.

Blane and I couldn’t have spent so much time working hard on our promise if it wasn’t for cabinet members like Megan, who planned the classic SGA events such as Crawfish in the Quad and SNEAUX, and Corina Lopez, chief justice, who continued SGA’s commitment to finding and discussing social justice issues on campus while creating ways to talk about them as a community. I am so lucky to have had such an exceptional team.

Today, I come into the office, sit down and look up. It’s almost time to take our plans down from the wall. In two weeks, we will announce the next SGA administration and, just like a year ago, I will be flying abroad — this time to visit my amazing girlfriend Marilyn in Scotland. I smile because not only did we finish the promise, but we added to the blueprint created by hundreds of SGA administrations before us and are passing on something truly special to the next one. Placed by my laptop is a stack of photo albums filled with Maroon clippings, news releases and plans from years of past administrations. Every so often, I sift through them and think about how we are now a part of this incredibly rich history. It has been the greatest honor serving as your student government president. I could not be more excited to hear the voices of the next set of student leaders. For one of the last times as president, I’ll sign off on this letter the only way we know how — with one, loud “Go Pack!”

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Opinion: SGA president reflects on promises