Over the past two years, different student political parties—Ignite, ReDefine, Blueprint, and The Link, to name a few—have run tickets based on accountability. Promises of connecting students with the university administration have become hackneyed and purposeless as whiteboard after whiteboard of ideas for campus improvement are made and forgotten. If you were to look at the Student Government website a month ago, you would have assumed that they have been defunct for the past year. Attendance has not been updated in a year and legislation was only recently added to the website.
Students don’t want vague promises, as evidenced by a fifteen percent turnout rate for elections. Since I have been at UGA, I have seen no substantive change in student influence on university policy. Legitimate student concerns are swept under the rug. HOPE has been gutted and undocumented students have been banned from the best universities in Georgia. The UGA Student Government Association, through institutional design, has failed the student body. Just this week, the SGA senate was unable to hold a general body meeting because it did not meet quorum.
A student government in which most senate elections are uncontested and all executive tickets run in a popularity contest on what are essentially the same platforms leads to a body of pseudo-legislators devoid of political validity. The cycle is self-perpetuating: without an electoral referendum—a decisive portion of the student body actually participating in elections—the university’s administration rightfully refuses to delegate substantive power to SGA. As a body whose only real ability is to initiate minor programs, pass resolutions voicing concerns, and oversee the allocation of funds to organizations (with strict oversight from various university employees), there is little incentive to participate through service as a senator or voting in student government. Rinse and repeat.
This is not to say that members of the student government association are just résumé builders or don’t care about the university. I have personally talked with several well-intentioned senators who have become disillusioned with their lack of efficacy. The failure to derive authority from the student body, though, is further exacerbated by two degrees of separation—Governor Deal and the Board of Regents— from the president of UGA and the students, precluding a meaningful system of accountability.
When considering which SGA ticket to vote for this spring, think about the implications of voting for a group making empty, vague, and unrealistic promises. By continuing to support the student government association as it is, students have become complicit in SGA’s ineffectiveness. The only way students are going to gain a real voice at UGA will be through a complete overhaul of SGA. Which ticket is going to support real constitutional reform? Embark UGA? REACH UGA?
Image credits: Featured image via UGA’s SGA site. Photo of Matt Tyler via his Twitter profile.