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SGA Notebook Tradition Starts Meetings with Hugs, Tears, Laughs, and More

Three women look at a notebook.
Left to right: Raz Moayed ’20, Tatiana Melendez ’19, and Jehan Ayesha ’23, enjoy reading entries from the SGA notebook.

By David Ertischek ’01

This semester, the Emerson College Student Government Association (SGA) has a new cadre of students and a new advisor, but the one constant from previous years is a notebook.

Since around 2009, students kick off every meeting with odes written to fellow SGA members, with the most recent entry being read aloud. The next meeting kicks off with a written entry from the student who was written about in the previous meeting.

“It’s all about compliments,” said former SGA Advisor Sharon Duffy. “Depending upon the person who was writing or receiving, there will be times when there are tears or audible gasps.”

The impetus for starting SGA meetings with readings from a notebook was birthed in the late 2000s, when staff members attended a conference and heard about a similar practice happening at another school. Staff thought it’d be a positive way to begin meetings that can be very intense as members represent and fight on behalf of their constituents.  

The current notebook is orange with a honeycomb design, and the first entry is from April 17, 2016. There have been several other notebooks through the years that now rest in Emerson’s Archives.

What students write about their peers runs the gamut.

“Normally you write something sweet relating to their contributions, your own personal experiences with them,” said Lily Fitzherbert Class of ’23 VP, SGA LGBTQA Class Commissioner. “If you know them outside of SGA you can write about those moments, too.”

Last semester, Fitzherbert praised a first-year student for working very hard and doing so much in their season at Emerson.

You are such a humble powerhouse. You do so much for this campus, please know that I see your hard work, passion + dedication to make this community a better place.”

While not officially known, Raz Moayed ‘20, SGA Executive President for fall 2019, may be the Lion who’s written the most entries, and thus had the most entries about her. In the orange notebook, Moayed wrote five entries about her cohorts.

“That has my entire SGA career,” smiled Moayed. “It is the best way to start our meetings because [SGA meetings] are so serious and business-y. It’s also a good way to say, ‘Hey, I see you, and the work you’re doing. It doesn’t go unnoticed’.”

Moayed said she’s chosen to write about particular colleagues if someone really surprised her that week, or if she’s seen impressive personal growth. She cited offering acclamation to students who’ve put in a lot of effort, time, and energy, to create a successful campus event.

A handwritten page inside a notebook
A recent entry from the SGA notebook.

Tatiana Melendez ’19, SGA FSL Commissioner for fall 2019, said she’s been written about twice, and they affirmed her positive impact for the Emerson community.

The intros to entries or often endearing, comical, and complimentary.

“First hi you look amazing today…”

“Josh, My wonderful, talented, spirited little Pisces…”

“My Dearest Arianna…”

“In the words of Sharon Duffy, where have you been hiding?”

In a way the notebook bonds SGA participants together, just as the hours of hard work they do behind closed doors.

As SGA’s executive secretary, Julia Stanton ’21 takes minutes of each meeting, and thus writes what’s read from the notebook each meeting.

“It’s the best part of the meeting, for sure. It creates such a camaraderie,” said Stanton. “I think the most heartfelt ones are when upperclassmen bring in their new neighbors and make them feel like part of the organization. It’s really sweet that the older SGA members can look to the younger ones as well, because they’re doing great things and we’re proud of them.”

One sunny Sept. day in Sandwich, Massachusetts, I picked a flower and gave it to you because I was so impressed with how adventurous and optimistic you were.”

The fall semester was SGA Accessibility Commissioner Harper McKenzie’s ’21 first participation in student government. She found the habitual reading to be an unexpected and welcome surprise that made the group feel like a family.

“Being recognized is really about celebrating everybody and [I] feel that we all deserve to be celebrated at every meeting for the hard work everyone’s doing,” said Will Palauskas ’21, SGA Executive President spring 2020, who’s been a member of SGA since his first semester.

Executive Treasurer Abby Semple ’20 found the tradition to be strange at her first meeting, as people were crying because it was the last meeting of a semester. She learned end-of-semester meetings are often very emotional, as students are graduating, saying goodbye to their friends, and SGA.

“It’s not about being written about,” said Semple. “It’s about being part of a community and that my work is being recognized outside of the notebook.”

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