Survey Says: SGA ignored student opinions

Jay Benedict | editor in chief

The Collegio offers students a voice. We ask and encourage students to contribute to the opinion section of this newspaper. We’re huge fans of the First Amendment and try to present both sides of issues while representing the views of students on this campus.
PSU has had much to debate about lately. Most recently, it was the Heads vs. Feds marijuana legalization event and dialogue that ended in the Student Government Association’s vote to not support conceal and carry on campus.  SGA allowed students to weigh in through an online survey, but in the end, disregarded the results.
During the three days the poll was open, 918 students voiced their opinions and 53.2 percent were in favor of conceal and carry. That total is almost 100 more students than those who voted in last spring’s fee referendum. It’s also only seven fewer than the total number of voters in the last SGA general election. Both of the latter polls were open for about twice as long as the gun survey.
The concealed-carry survey was put together at the last minute and given virtually no publicity by SGA, yet it was on pace to reach more students than the election.  The sole reason for that is the Gorillas for Conceal and Carry on Campus (GCCC) spent two days in the Oval telling students about the issue and survey. Their involvement is what SGA claims invalidated the survey and how they justified voting contradictory to the student body.
This is the administration that claims to have built its platform on student involvement and transparency, but now it’s not honoring those promises. A controversial topic came to campus and SGA did well to allow students to have their say, but GCCC took it upon itself to inform everyone about it. Yes, they were available to discuss the topic with passersby and no one could mistake their stance on it.  
If SGA was concerned about GCCC skewing the validity of the poll, it could have just as easily been out there. They sent out a BULK-E, which most people ignore, and posted links on Facebook, yet they didn’t take the active role they could have had.
In the cases of the fee referendum and last April’s tobacco-free campus referendum, SGA and the university administration spent months spreading the word about the topics and answering any questions that the students had. This conceal and carry resolution needed to be done before senators headed to Topeka for Higher Education Day, but they knew it was coming. Simply put, this survey didn’t need to be thrown together on such a last-minute basis.
SGA is sending the wrong message by throwing out the survey’s results based on GCCC’s involvement. In essence, they’re saying that unless a group’s objective is in line with SGA’s agenda, don’t bother talking to students.
GCCC did not actively try to skew the results. I spent time near their booth on the Oval during the two days they were set up. They offered to talk with people about concealed carry, and some of those discussions were heated, but their core message was to just go vote, regardless of stance on the issue.
I spoke with Michelle Hucke, a local politician last election season and asked what her constituents’ opinions meant to her. She responded by saying that she believed her own values and beliefs should rarely come into play, because she’s there as the voice of the people she represents and she is obligated to vote in a way that represents them.
  That won her my vote and I hope she meant what she said. Elected officials are meant to be the voice of those they represent. The preamble to SGA’s constitution is summarized in some of the language used in the actual resolution. It states that their mission is to: “represent the students of Pittsburg State University in expressing their viewpoints and concerns.”
That’s not what happened last week. Maybe senators already had their minds made up. If so, then they wasted a lot of people’s time. Maybe they let their own beliefs overshadow the voices of the students. If that’s the case, then they’re not doing the job that the senators were elected to do.
The Collegio isn’t taking a side on the gun issue, but what transpired at last week’s SGA meeting was a victory for the anti-gun camp. That victory came at a cost, though. It wasn’t the result of thoughtful debate and listening to constituent voices. It was SGA pushing its own agenda in spite of student feedback.

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