A response to “We need a new SGA Constitution”
By Tyler Norris, Guest Writer
When I picked up last week’s edition of the Newswire, my first thought was “Oh. My. God,” (i.e., my best imitation of Janice from Friends). Seeing a Vice President resign and an opinion piece on the SGA Constitution, I couldn’t help but read every scandalous detail.
As a former senator in my undergraduate experience here at Xavier, I was very curious about the state of our SGA leadership and what caused us to go from high engagement with the university to the first legitimate (almost) impeachment.
First, I would like to respond by saying that while there are inherent issues with the Constitution, understanding where it came from is crucial. For example, Robert Soucek pointed out the first article and section states that SGA supersedes all other student organization by-laws.
This is primarily necessary because SGA’s Student Organizations Committee (SOC) is responsible for allocating funds to student groups. This would be impossible without this clause and would force an anonymous staff committee to allocate without checks or balances for their bias.
Secondly, the other committees and the entirety of the governing body are the primary means of communication between hundreds of student groups and the hundreds of staff, faculty and committees. Without this power oversight, despite how it could be abused, the university would suffer greater communication issues than already exist.
The next issue I’d like to tackle is that of appointed positions. At the end of my term, SGA did not have enough students interested in running during the very limited window of campaigning, so the appointed positions were a means to an end to bring on students after this period of time. However, this did not address the root problems of our student involvement crisis.
If one wants to run for a seat in the Senate, they must know they are interested within the first few weeks of school. Next, they attend an information session and start gathering materials (signatures to be able to run, proof of attending an SGA meeting, etc). Then, if this is done within a short deadline, there is a brief campaigning period that is geared far more towards executive positions than senators. Worse, these short windows are even further reduced for executive tickets.
In addition, because people campaign for election in the fall, their terms span across two different school years, excluding seniors and discouraging juniors. As a senator with a term beginning in spring, I felt like I had plenty of time for projects with summer. So, I procrastinated and felt too rushed to do my projects once fall started. Thus, I fell short of my hopes as a senator, which I deeply regret.
Here are some of my proposed solutions that I hope current senators see and try to push before the end of their terms this fall.
First, I propose that SGA has elections occur in the spring semester.
Yes, a group of senators and executives would need to serve an extra semester, but this would solve the short deadlines, neglect to take uniform action and include seniors. Additionally, to still accommodate first years, a specific number of seats (around three or four) could be reserved for first years to apply in the fall to serve for a semester. I think that this would encourage those who know what happens at this university to be able to make a change rather than be inclusive of curious, scared and inexperienced first-years.
Secondly, SGA ought to require that anyone who runs for or is serving as a student government member (regardless of position) may sit on but can not serve as an executive board member for any student organization simultaneously. This aims to avoid abuse of power, financially speaking.
Third, serving on SGA is a time commitment, especially if you want to actually make a difference and not just hold a Senate seat apathetically. Undergraduate academics are already enough of a time commitment for students without adding the pressure of executive positions for multiple organizations. I mean, you should try to sleep sometimes.
Thus, to truly encourage SGA to do something and make changes, SGA should be their only other commitment within the realm of student involvement. It helps for senators to sit in on the executive meetings of larger, more dominant student organizations in which they participate, but to do anything other than help represent these groups in the Senate is too much to ask of students.
While these aren’t the only ways to fix issues in SGA, I think they are the most promising and most needed currently.
To cap it off, to be a senator or executive is to need a certain mantra. My recommended starting mantra for wanting to make a difference: Be the change you wish to see in the world.