American University of Nigeria’s Student Government Association (SGA) represents the student body by supporting student organizations and addressing student concerns. Since 2008/9, the SGA has managed to provide and sustain a relationship between the institution and its students. The AUN SGA works as the representative body through which students voice their concerns and interests; they are students advocating for students.
A student government’s role can vary greatly depending on the school and its needs. At AUN, the SGA has responsibilities like ensuring the free flow of information between the student body and school administration; This is done through regular email updates and town hall meetings. The SGA also has a dedicated office in the Robert Pastor Library.
Taslim Oladoja, AUN’s 14th Student Body President, spoke about the importance of a student government.
“The university administration is not capable of listening to every single student, but when they have a bridge – which in this case is the student government – issues or concerns can be laid in the best interest of the students. Otherwise, a lot of students would have policies that are not exactly in their best interest laid down by the university.”
The Dean of Students, Byron Bullock, also gave his views on the SGA’s importance.
“The SGA is an important aspect of the student experience as it provides an avenue for students to develop leadership skills, develop political awareness, and engage in civic/community activity as they prepare for life in the real world.”
Similar to sovereign governments, the SGA has legislative, executive, and judicial arms. In AUN, the SGA’s judicial arm works in collaboration with the school’s Judicial Affairs department and students are appointed from the student body to represent the SGA in judicial affairs.
The legislative branch deals with addressing the concerns of each student by having senate forums. The Student Senate encompasses the majority of what the legislative branch does in that the senators listen to questions, comments, concerns, and ideas from students during forums, and then work towards enacting changes.
The executive branch is comprised of the Student Body President, Executive Vice President, Treasurer, and Public Relations Officer. In addition to these positions, the Board of Directors also falls under the executive branch. Directors and their deputies are chosen as department heads from the executive council. Director positions are given in departments of Food and Hygiene, Sports, Academics, Internal Affairs, Transport, Health, Finance, Special Events, and Facilities Management.
Students meeting at the library
Dean Bullock emphasized how rewarding it has been working with the different student government regimes over the past 10 years.
“I have had the opportunity to watch the executive officers of SGA grow and develop in their respective leadership roles. My relationship with the SGA has afforded me some valuable insight into students’ issues and concerns, their vision for AUN, and their knowledge of issues that affect Nigerian college students in general.”
The SGA has prevailed on several occasions. One of them being the “SoroSoke AUN” demonstration that was led by the student body in November of 2020. Students gathered to express concerns about services – specifically, being unable to spend meal plan money on meals and items at the coffee shop. The event lasted about an hour and a half, after which the meal issues were resolved.
Speaking about the demonstration, as a member of the school’s administration, the Dean of Students, was most concerned about the issues that brought students to that point.
“I heard about the event after it happened. Had I been on campus, I would have done everything possible to address students’ concerns long before they moved to that point .”
When asked what the state of AUN would be if the SGA were to be abolished, Taslim Oladoja (Student Body President) said.
“To not have a student government, especially in the last four years would have been a disaster for students at AUN. There would have been total authoritarian ruling.”
Final year student, Emmanuella Etuk has for the past year and a half served as student Director of Academics for the School of IT and Computing. She believes the AUN SGA plays a critical role, but what if there was no SGA?
“I feel like the change will not be that drastic to the point where the school cannot function, but it will be noticeable.” Said Emmanuella.
In the American University of Nigeria governance and leadership are transparent and participatory processes.That is why the SGA is such a strong institution with direct access to the university leadership. The SGA provides an opportunity for students to be actively engaged in the governance process. It is extremely important that students have a say in matters that impact college life and campus activities. Even though, AUN’s Student Government Association is not as powerful as some students want it to be, nevertheless, the SGA has some influence in terms of getting things to work.
Reported by Ibiton Daphne Siminialayi