SGA President Justin Gawronski reflects on his term in office
It came in the form of an outstretched hand and a joke.
"Thank you for single-handedly making the (Student Government Association) matter," the professor said as he shook SGA President Justin Gawronski's hand.
It was a typical meeting in the long-winding schedule, but this week, he carried a feat larger than most on his shoulders. The Academic Senate had just voted to keep the 16-week academic calendar for the fall, stopping a scheduled change that would have shortened it to 15 weeks.
Early last October, Faculty Association President and Counseling and Special Education Associate Professor Laura Frey told the SGA that stopping the academic calendar change wasn't realistic.
"Unless something insurmountable occurs, the academic calendar will change," Frey said.
Frey didn't seem at that point to even begin to consider the SGA to be that insurmountable force. But, weeks later, SGA passed legislation opposing the calendar change, President George Ross opposed the change only a week after, and, that February, the changes to the academic calendar were put to a halt.
SGA's opposition to the academic calendar was an uncanny move for the SGA. It challenged what many thought was impossible for the SGA to accomplish. The SGA had accomplished many significant tasks in the years before, but the academic calendar was an entirely different matter, one that put it in the center of university affairs.
It was one of the biggest achievements of Gawronski's administration, and it has given the SGA more political capital than any time in recent memory heading into a new administration.
"There was a lot at stake for the SGA when we opposed that," Gawronski said. "Because if we failed to stop it, then it would have been clear that our powers were as limited as people thought; that we didn't have the power to change it. Thankfully, it legitimized the student body as the (insurmountable) force."
At the beginning of his term, SGA was reeling from a botched unicameral proposition, which threatened to eliminate the House. Not even a week into Gawronski's administration, a new scandal arose, surrounding several questionable appointments Gawronski made to the Senate. In the midst of the uproar, Gawronski's first vice president resigned.
"We did have a very rocky start," said Gawronski, a Macomb senior. "My mistakes those first few weeks were less than desirable, but I really value that time as well. Making it through those few weeks gave me the confidence and drive to make it through the next year."
Coming into the new 2012-2013 year, Gawronski had recovered with a victory very few saw coming, including Garwronski himself.
"Tailgating wasn't even on my platform, to be honest. It didn't seem like something the SGA would have been able to affect," Gawronski said. "It kind of just fell into my lap when I came into office."
Gawronski led a student committee that worked with the Central Michigan University athletics department and CMU police in order to re-evaluate and create a positive experience for Chippewa's fans and students. A new, less restrictive tailgating policy was put in place at the beginning of the 2012 football season.
Gawronski said mistakes were made in his administration, as well. Gawronski had three vice presidents during his term. His second, Hesperian senior Killian Richeson, resigned after a little more than a semester in office. Big Rapids senior Michelle Vanhalla, his third vice president, held office for the rest of his term. The high turnover rate is a problem Gawronski said is one that discredits the vice presidency, but he admits it is one he doesn't know how to solve.
Gawronski said his largest mistake was made in October just before the election, when the SGA misplaced 32 voter registration forms. It's a mistake for which he still feels regret.
"That's been my biggest failure; not only did it go against our organization's purpose ... we accidentally prevented people from voting," Gawronski said. "(This year) was my first time, and I know it was really important to me."
Gawronski said he endorsed Marie Reimers' and Patrick O'Connor's presidential ticket because they have had direct interaction with his presidency.
"If Marie and Patrick won, they've seen my successes first hand, and I'm sure they'll improve upon what I've done," Gawronski said.
Gawronski said his legacy notes won't include much at all about his legacy, but more about the mistakes he has made and the responsibilities that the new president will face in the future.
Despite his mistakes, Gawronski said he looks back at his administration in a positive light. His last week in office consisted of reflection and a final push for a paid campus ambassador position, a project he has been working on for the entirety of the spring semester and one he hopes is close to fruition.
"I cannot believe where I was at a year ago," Gawronski said. "I've become much more mature; my leadership style has improved. I think I'm definitely going to have a sense of pride when I walk out of here. I left the organization better than when I started"