We need a new SGA Constitution

By Robby Soucek, Guest Writer

The improper structure of the Constitution of the Student Government Association (SGA) — something that is dissimilar to the government of the State of Ohio, the United States and easily the governance of the greater university itself — is a campus anomaly. The SGA Constitution states in Article I: Section 1 that it “will supersede all other student organization by-laws.”

This statement  allows  SGA  to require itself to be the leading commission on campus and implies there is no other council considered higher. The phrase itself promotes a sort of redundancy that I think can be easily missed. 

In stating that the by-laws of SGA supersede all others on campus, it actually reverses its own claim. This does not account for affiliate groups  on campus, such as the Jesuit Student Government Alliance (JSGA). The creation of an extension like the JSGA or other such committees on par and equal to SGA make the opening clause of the Constitution completely pointless.

Another issue with the structure of SGA is its handling of executive power throughout the Constitution. It promotes the election of a  president and two vice presidents, as well as 16 senators and other representatives for the university’s councils, commissions and organizations through a fair, free and open vote by the student body. 

The issues of these student representatives, as in the ones who are appointed for the governance of these non-SGA organizations, and the unicameral structure of SGA are highly ineffective and disadvantageous to an efficient system. 

One of the main issues with SGA’s efficiency is not with the actual votes or meeting minutes carried out by its elected officials. Rather, it is merely the problem of SGA’s uniform action. As former President James Madison stated in the Federalist Papers 10, “Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an ailment without which it instantly expires.” Madison’s wise words can be heavily related to the situation of the SGA’s structure. 

SGA’s inability to promote divisive discussions, ones which lead to excellent and efficient argument, will never allow for the assumption of creative ideas in any of SGA’s policies or projects.

As for the election of the executive board members, as well as the senators, I take issue with the “campaigning” and “open”elections of officials on this campus. It should not be challenging to hear or learn about the candidates for whom we vote on this campus. In keeping the information about and views of the candidates in almost complete secrecy, we are robbing ourselves of one of the most pivotal portions of successful democracy: for the elections to be open. 

While SGA elections do not involve restricting votes, they are critically flawed and fail to communicate their goals to the student body. I have yet to ever see one pamphlet, sign, letter or email that displays the views of the candidates running for the office since my time on campus.

The secrecy of the goals and policies of the elected students does not make SGA a “hands-off” student organization here. Rather, it obstructs the most important principles of democracy and looks foolish in its current form. With the election of officials in mind, I must bring the executive into question. The tripartite council of the executive is redundant in its structure and fails to live up to the standards set by the U.S. Constitution. 

Now, I understand that any university can run its student governing bodies the way it wants to run them. However, I believe the way SGA is run is one that breeds ignorance over intelligence. While I understand there aren’t parties per se in the scheme of SGA, this inability to form factions makes the assumption of two vice presidents redundant and unnecessary. If we do not promote students to campaign as running mates, then is there truly a point in having a three-person executive board? 

The United States’ standard (the election of one president and one vice president) is one that makes sense, and leaves the establishment of the Senate to separate power structures. The vice president will be capable of breaking ties when in session, and an excellent extension of power can then be reserved for the president of the executive branch, making the executive exactly what the name implies.

It doesn’t take much effort to find confusion in the secrecy of the Senate as well. None of SGA’s positions should be by appointment. This consequence of nepotism with the installment of friendships over votes makes for an undoubtedly unglamorous organization.

This denial of votes for potential elections removes the liberty and freedom of the students themselves. At the end of the day, student officials are elected for one reason: to represent their class in a governing body. Their inability to show their desires and to be voted in with a popular initiative is foolish. I endorse the implementation of a brand new Constitution, one that leaves the prior in darkness.