As an undergraduate student at another university, I had not participated directly in student government because the political party system that existed seemed to be more aimed at obtaining and maintaining political power than in bettering the lives of students. We even voted in a different political party twice for the purpose of eliminating the political party system, which did not happen. However, when I arrived at Florida State I experienced a different reality.
The Student Government Association (SGA) at Florida State is not only responsible for creating and updating student statutes, but also for allocating a budget of millions of dollars in student activity fees. As a result, I decided to participate not only to be involved in my new school, but also as a way to meet new people.
For College of Law students there are a few very unique options for getting involved in student government. One option is to join the legislative branch as a member of either the Congress of Graduate Students or the Law School Council. Another is to join the judicial branch as either a member of the Elections Commission or the Student Supreme Court.
During my first and second year of law school I served on the Elections Commission, which has the responsibility of holding hearings and ruling on violations of the election code by student candidates, campaigns, and political parties. One might assume there would not be much to do in this area, but that is not the case. Each year, the Commission holds about 7-10 hearings, which last anywhere from 1 to 4 hours depending on the violations.
While at times holding hearings and deliberating is an onerous task, these cases provided me with some of my favorite memories from law school, all the while serving an integral function of the SGA. It was also great practice for future lawyers because not only did we write judicial opinions, we sat on the bench and got to experience first-hand what judges do. I also served with some of my best friends and we had a lot of fun, especially during my second year when I had the opportunity to chair the Commission.
For my final year of law school I decided to move on to the Student Supreme Court. Due in part to my experience on the Elections Commission I was able to get an appointment from the Student Body President and after a lively senate confirmation hearing I was confirmed as an Associate Justice. The best part about serving on Student Supreme Court is that we got to wear judicial robes to our hearings, which I thought was pretty cool.
The Student Supreme Court is much more involved with the rest of SGA and we were even required to appear at Student Senate meetings to offer advisory opinions. Other duties included swearing in new senators at their inaugural banquet following student senate elections, holding hearings on violations of the Student Body Constitution, and making decisions on cases by appeal from lower judicial bodies, like the Elections Commissions. When interpreting the Student Body Constitution, Student Statutes, or in hearing cases on appeal, it was very important for us to do a thorough job because beyond a decision of the Student Supreme Court there is no appeal.
While you will certainly be busy in law school, it is important that you take part in activities that you find both fun and rewarding. If you have not considered participating in the SGA at Florida State University, I would highly recommend it. Whether you choose the legislative or judicial path, the opportunity will provide you with valuable experience and will definitely bring you in contact with some new and interesting people.
PJ Hebb, Class of 2015