Food for thought for SGA
| Staff Editorial |
The reactions among the crowd gathered to hear the winner of this year’s Student Government Association election told it all: Jordan Schaper and Jaci Gilchrist’s relief and satisfaction, contrasted with Jake Letner and Jaecy Hebrlee’s resolution to press on amid an air of disappointment.
We offer congratulations to Schaper and Gilchrist, but now it is time to get to work, and problems face SGA that go beyond the vision offered by either of the party platforms.
Schaper has pledged to do what he can to heal the scars that this nasty campaign has left behind, but The Collegio has spoken to sources within SGA who indicate that what has happened has been a festering problem behind the scenes for several years.
If that’s true, and we have no direct evidence of it, we hope that this summer will cool SGA members down and help them put the past behind them. Future senators should let bygones be bygones.
We don’t doubt that this year’s election board, headed by Sen. Lindsay Ong and Sen. James Saltat, meant well by attempting to head off any negative campaigns by banning them outright.
It would seem, however, that this only added gasoline to the fire, at least on social media. Insults, character attacks and outrage flowed freely there during the campaign, and feelings were hurt. This won’t work going forward.
Instead, a regulated climate of politics-as-usual needs to be a goal. A fairly moderated and productive debate needs to be held for all contested elections. Attacks on policies or ideas, to test their strength, should be permitted.
If the election board can argue that it has allowed a legitimate and spirited campaign, it will have gained more credibility when it brings down the hammer on those who step out of line.
Balance of power
We have already advocated for a serious look to be taken at SGA’s role in its partnership with Pittsburg State’s administration, and it’s important to reiterate that.
Only under emergency circumstances should anyone outside of SGA take action in its election process, and exactly what such a case would be was not clear this year.
Ultimately, the choice by Steve Erwin, associate vice president of campus life and auxiliary services, to overrule SGA’s election and judicial board may be justifiable.
However, that choice happened amid a confusing and heated environment. That needs to be avoided going forward. SGA should have the primary responsibility to decide when outside intervention is needed.
Room for big reform?
There’s also room for broader change here. Today, SGA has the power to participate in student-fee allocations and offer recommendations to the administration. This gives students an important say in their cost of education.
This is a mostly functional system, but student senators have at times raised issue with the occasional choice by Steve Scott, university president, and the President’s Council to override SGA and independently pass through fee increases.
For most student-fee decisions at the University of Kansas, Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little has power to veto a KU Student Senate recommendation and send it back to the Senate for revisions.
Such an idea would take hard work by all parties to implement and to function, yet there is a sound path forward in stepping up senators’ involvement in the process while preserving Scott’s final say.