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    SGA Gets Busy

This year the Student Government Association has tackled a host of new initiatives.

By Phyllis Hanlon

SGA membersYou might not actually see it, but you can certainly feel it. An underlying current of excitement, enthusiasm and passion pervades the Holy Cross campus, thanks to the efforts of the Student Government Association (SGA). Nicole Mortorano '04 and Kevin Gallagher '05, co-chairs of SGA - together with a host of student-run committees in collaboration with faculty and administrators - are working to provide a growing number of services and programs that address diversity, tolerance, academics, social life and safety.

The SGA co-chairs credit the organization's dedicated cabinet members, as well as the newly created Senate, with a new surge in activity. Whether sponsoring rallies against hate crimes, running forums and informational sessions or even opening one of the first student-run, on-campus video rental stores in the country, the SGA has been invigorated of late. And, in turn, the association has become an invigorating presence on campus.

A newly formed sexual assault committee has sponsored programs, forums, meetings and discussions in which nearly 400 students, faculty members and administrators have participated. The committee plans to launch a print publication by the end of the semester highlighting the problems associated with sexual assault. Based on a magazine produced and distributed at Duke University, this publication will feature testimonials from victims as well as essays and artwork from students and faculty. In addition, the SGA has worked on updating a College handbook on Catholic teachings about sexuality and sexual decision-making and issuing a second handbook that will serve as a resource for victims of sexual violence.

In the interest of student safety, SGA added Night Rider, an off-campus escort shuttle, to its current transportation service that delivers students to the airport, local shopping malls and into Boston and Providence on weekends. Night Rider ensures the safety of students off campus without return transportation to the school and operates Friday and Saturday nights from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. "This, hopefully, will provide an outlet to allow a student to leave an uncomfortable situation and come back to campus," Gallagher says. Launched in February, the service is averaging about 40 calls per night, according to Mortorano.

For those students who prefer to remain in the residence halls, a campus-run video rental store offers a wide choice of the latest movies. Last summer, four students from SGA researched distributors and put together policies and contracts in preparation for a fall opening. "We thought that in the beginning it would be at its peak and then wouldn't be the new thing. But it's been the opposite," says Gallagher. As of March 1, the rental store reported close to $5,000 in revenue and had rented almost 2,000 movies. More than 1,000 students have accounts and business increases steadily each week, he notes.

Community involvement has always been a cornerstone of the Holy Cross education. In keeping with that philosophy, SGA teamed with the school's administrators, the city of Worcester and neighborhood civic associations to revitalize nearby Cookson Park. SGA secured two grants for $2,000 and, with matching funds from the city, conducted phase one of a cleanup project. Gallagher has challenged the city to once again match the College's fund-raising efforts to reach a goal of $150,000 needed to complete phases two and three. He anticipates completion of phase two - adding a parking lot and lighting to the area - during the summer. In phase three, students will construct the playground in the fall. "We want to have positive relationships and give back. The civic association has been struggling to find a project, and now they are working hard with us on the park," says Gallagher.

Back on campus, SGA began a book exchange as an alternative to the bookstore. SGA members coordinate the entire event, and students set prices for their books, which often results in better deals for both buyers and sellers. Gallagher anticipates moving the program online soon, modeled after eBay. To help low-income employees and students, some SGA members provide free tax service prior to the April filing deadline.

SGA also sponsors an on-campus readership program that exposes students to daily news from USA Today, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post and The New York Times. The free newspapers can be found at five locations across the campus.

Much of the work that happens within SGA is invisible. Hours of meetings and discussions ensure that students' needs are met, and issues that affect the entire campus are addressed. "We have sought to broaden our horizons and focus on issues that are important to all students. We advocate for students," says Gallagher.

"There is so much potential and passion for improving the whole Holy Cross student life culture," Mortorano says. "When students realize what we are doing, they also know we are a resource. They stop and ask for support on various issues."


Phyllis Hanlon is a freelance writer from Charlton, Mass.


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