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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Opinion

Lack of oversight leaves SGA incapable of representing UH students


The Cougar's editorial board has found it difficult to ignore the array of issues consuming the SGA. | Juana Garcia/The Cougar

The Cougar’s editorial board has found it difficult to ignore the array of issues consuming the SGA. | Juana Garcia/The Cougar

As an organization meant to serve and represent the UH community by holding those in power to account, The Cougar’s editorial board has found it difficult to ignore the issues that have engulfed the Student Government Association in recent weeks after the SGA Senate initiated the recall process against embattled President Arsalan Darbin.

What started as the SGA and the student body performing their civic duty has devolved into a mess that has crippled an organization that is supposed to represent the UH student body and act in its best interest.

When former SGA President Cameron Barrett pioneered the constitutional recall code during the 55th Administration, he designed the provision as “a way for students to directly hold elected leaders accountable.”

Three years later, with Darbin facing severe accusations of bigotry and hostility, the code was put to the test. 

Darbin recently faced the student body in the recall election — and lost, convincingly.

Yet Darbin will remain president, albeit suspended until the end of the fall semester after the SGA Supreme Court effectively overturned the will of the student body.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court and SGA Attorney General Nadiia Hutcherson, who is supposed to be on a “leave of absence,” have upended the organization. Hutcherson, abetted by the court’s judicial power, suspended 15 senators, including Senate Speaker David Paul Hilton, until Dec. 19 for supporting an amendment to the election code that would have allowed them to campaign in the recall referendum.

Hutcherson, granted new powers by the Supreme Court, has since removed three senators from office, including recall leader Abraham Sanchez.

The SGA’s legislative body, instead of focusing on students’ needs, won’t meet again until the spring and is essentially out of commission because of the suspensions and removals.

In the executive branch, Vice President Maryam Alghafir, the de-facto acting president, has been left in the unusual position of being the top officer of an organization in freefall.

Of all the student organizations at UH, the SGA is among the most powerful. It has seats at many tables around UH, including in committees that oversee the distribution of student fees across campus, housing, dining and even the University Hearing Board. 

It is allotted a $160,000 budget by the Student Fees Advisory Committee that is supposed to enable it to advocate for students and meet their needs. 

But instead of using the SGA’s powers and money for the good of the student body, many members have spent the semester weaponizing their elected or appointed positions against each other and ignoring their responsibilities to the student body.

So, when the leaders that students elected to advocate for them can’t perform those representative duties, who can be trusted to do so?

Much like The Cougar and the Student Media Advisory Committee, many organizations and departments around campus are overseen by some sort of advisory board.

But the Student Government, despite its influence and financial power, escapes accountability. 

Its president has been deemed unfit by the electorate but will remain in office because the Supreme Court and attorney general effectively ignored the student body’s will. The SGA Senate, meanwhile, has been completely sidelined because its members couldn’t follow the code for a recall election they initiated in the first place.

This lack of oversight has harmed the SGA’s reputation and corrupted the organization. In turn, students who deserve advocacy and representation in administrative decisions, a duty the SGA would normally perform, have been ignored in favor of the faux-political squabble that has taken the organization over.

Entrusted with self-governance, the SGA has failed. 

It has been made more than clear that those running the organization need to be put in check. The absence of some form of oversight will continue to be detrimental to the student body and the SGA itself.

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