Ella Doyle, the new president of the student government of Loyola Chicago (SGLC) has served for three weeks now after the sudden resignation of her predecessor Margaret Bronec and former Vice President Erla Dervishi.
As a new and uniquely unelected leader, the 20-year-old former Speaker of the Senate said she has sought to make a name for herself in her current role and emphasize that she and the rest of SGLC can get the job done.
“I know that I am not who the people voted for, but that does not mean that I am any less willing or ready to serve them,” Doyle said. “I want them to know that I am available and I am listening.”
Doyle became president through the line of succession after Bronec and Dervishi resigned in response to criticism from senators and the larger SGLC community while also citing mental health concerns, the Phoenix reported.
Doyle said her top priority this semester is to engage more with the student body and help facilitate better connections between students and the Loyola administration.
“We are experiencing pretty low levels of engagement, and we have been for quite a few years,” Doyle said. “I want people to recognize us, and I want people to feel comfortable asking things of us because we can’t do anything relevant if we don’t know what the student body wants.”
During last year’s presidential election, only 766 out of 7,588 eligible students voted despite being given a three day period to cast a virtual ballot, The Phoenix reported.
In an effort to increase participation, Doyle said she and a group of senators have planned several town halls and forums throughout the year to hear more directly from students while also working with their communications team to increase social media engagement. She also said that SGLC is developing rolling surveys on their LUCommunity page that students can use to submit feedback year-round.
While Doyle prioritized students’ relationship with SGLC, she’s also focused on students’ relationship with the Loyola administration.
Given the tumultuous start to the semester with COVID-19 still spreading, the protests against sexual assault on campus and now a presidential resignation, Doyle said that she is trying to be especially involved as a student.
“There are so many shitty situations that are happening on campus that students want to feel heard on,” Doyle said. “They want to feel like administrators are listening to them and doing something and they’re not feeling that. I [have] empathy on feeling like you’re not being listened to.”
The new Vice President and previous Chief Justice of SGLC Rhea Prag echoed this sentiment and said both she and Doyle are ready to face the unique challenges of this semester, emphasizing the chemistry that has been formed over the last three years of them working together.
“Both of us have been in the organization as long as the other,” Prag, 21, said. “She has her areas of knowledge, and I have my own areas of knowledge and combining those we can [have] a really positive influence.”
Doyle and Prag said they aim to prioritize both bold action and open ears.
“While I speak on behalf of the student body, it is incredibly important as a leader that I do not speak for others, that I do not speak over others,” Doyle said. “I want to make sure that I’m accurately speaking on behalf of student groups.”
Doyle and Prag have already taken steps to be involved in community relations.
Most recently, Doyle, a dual citizen of the Cherokee nation, led the charge via SGLC in Indigenous empowerment and involvement Oct. 11 during the Indigenous People’s Day celebrations.
Doyle has also helped make advancements in alumni relations through the proposed expansion of an alumni network meant to connect SGLC and current students with those who have graduated.
In addition, Doyle said that she has started to advocate for more equitable use of the $500,000 Student Activity Fund among clubs and is especially focused on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) and opportunities for Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC). She said that financing public events for student organizations has been a main focus as well.
So far, four pieces of legislation have been passed, something Doyle said is “unheard of” in her time at SGLC in such a short period. While Doyle wasn’t the President at the time, she did play a major role as Speaker of the Senate and aims to continue this productivity. Other members echoed this sentiment.
“The productivity is definitely unlike anything I’ve witnessed in my time in SGLC,” Kathryn Caputo, the current Speaker of the Senate, said. “We usually see legislation rolling out at this pace in the Spring semester, so it’s been really amazing to see the work being done this early.”
The first was the Paper Limited Classrooms Resolution which is ultimately aimed at ending faculty requirements for students printing items for class.
The Senate Microphone Act granted the Senate an equipment upgrade while both the Lunar New Year, Mid-Autumn Festival and Diwali Recognition Resolution and the Loyola Athletics Indigenous Land Acknowledgement Resolution aimed to increase religious and cultural recognition.
Doyle largely credits her peers in the government for these accomplishments. She said this year’s senate is the most efficient she has ever seen at Loyola.
“People are really engaged,” Doyle said. “They are really passionate. They are really hard working. They’re asking the right questions. They are thinking critically and they are producing amazing initiatives on behalf of the student body.”
Joseph Kosman, the Senate Chair of Campus Life and Operations Committee, is optimistic that this productivity will continue under Doyle’s leadership.
“She’s going to help us as an entire organization move forward and continue this momentum that we currently have right now,” Kosman, 19, said.
With just over two months left in the semester and the rest of the 2021-2022 term, Doyle and the rest of SGLC have just begun. Doyle said she will be actively listening to and learning from her constituents over the next year, but is also well-equipped to begin with. Having served under three SGLC presidents prior, she said she’s had time to soak in wisdom from each.
“I have learned different tactics on how to act and how not to act from all three of them, and I really want to be able to marry what I’ve learned throughout my two and a half years here with myself and my own personality as a leader,” Doyle said.
Doyle said loyalty, trust, eloquence and assessing priorities were among some of the biggest lessons gleaned from her predecessors.
With these accumulated skills and personal experience, SGLC members have already taken note of Doyle’s new leadership style.
“Previously, we had a lot of tension with the legislative and the executive branch, and I think that Ella has really bridged that divide,” Kosman said. “That is probably why we’re all working so great now together.”
Bronec and Dervishi said in response that this turmoil was mostly due to a transition from virtual SGLC operations to in-person ones, but they acknowledged that Kosman’s assessment was fair.
Both Doyle and Prag said they’ve had to remain adaptable and navigate a busy time at Loyola, though they are optimistic for the semester and want to transition smoothly into a productive term.
“[We want to] take it piece by piece and step by step,” Prag said.
The SGLC’s specific organizational goals will be presented at the State of the Student Body on Friday, Nov. 5 at the Damen Den from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.