After emerging as the unscathed winner in a contentious election and waiting for more than a month to be inaugurated, Mary Cooper stepped up to the Great Hall’s podium at the Student Union with one goal in mind: efficiency.
Joined onstage by her executive officers, Cooper began her administration with a short speech, voicing her willingness to get to work.
“We had ideas, and now it’s time to implement them,” she said. “We’re ready to hit the ground running.”
Her short speech prefaced a year that will feature up to 20 fewer cabinet members.
In an effort to streamline student government, Cooper said in an interview that she will downsize positions, committees and special projects.
“We’ll be able to have more collaboration, more interaction,” she said. “It will allow us to get more things done with more opinions involved.”
Cooper’s executives said the office’s cabinet has been downsizing in recent years — and they believe merging some overlapping committees and projects will do away with inefficiencies.
“When there are a lot of committees working on things, it can be difficult to figure out what goal you’re actually trying to work on,” said Olivia Hammill, Cooper’s chief of staff.
“When too many students get involved, it gets a little too out of control.”
Monique Hardin, chief of staff under the administration of former Student Body President Hogan Medlin, said Medlin’s tenure featured 45 cabinet positions, 10 fewer than the year before. Cooper said she will have between 25 and 30 cabinet members.
Hardin expressed concern about Cooper’s plan, saying efficiency could come at the cost of student representation because a smaller group will offer fewer student voices.
“Limiting things can limit representation,” she said. “It could be harmful, we never know.
“There might be some backlash, but at the end of the day, I think she’ll have a smooth transition.”
Cooper said her administration will still be representative in spite of her plans to downsize. Because she will only combine committees that share functions, student needs will simply be met more efficiently, she said.
“You might not see a reduction of people in student government, you might see a reduction in people going to cabinet meetings,” Cooper said.
But Hardin said former committee members who will lose their legacies in student government might criticize the plan.
Cooper said she hopes former committee members will be glad to see student government running more efficiently.
“I think some things will actually be strengthened by doing this,” she said.
Lily Roberts, Cooper’s senior adviser, said some committees have become outdated and new ones have begun to overlap them.
“It’s really about focusing on which groups fill needs the best,” she said. “I think student government spending money on things that other groups can do more efficiently is not effective.”
She said the plan will fix a communication gap that has caused inefficiency.
“With 50 people, if you’re not constantly talking to someone, you’re not likely to learn who they are,” she said.
As part of this combining of committees, Cooper will merge the women’s affairs committee with the multicultural and diversity outreach committee, which she said speaks to her goal of taking on equality issues on campus.
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