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Saturday, July 11, 2020

Columns

SGA debacle proves actions are preferred over words


Trey Strange/The Cougar

SGA hosted a town hall to discuss comments made by Rohini Sethi that received a backlash from students. | Trey Strange/The Cougar

On Sept. 9, 2009, when President Obama was delivering a speech during a joint session of the 111th U.S. Congress, Republican Joe Wilson interrupted him and cried out, “You lie!”

Wilson was promptly booed and drowned out by the Democrats who, at the time, held majorities in both the House and the Senate.

What I remember most from that event is the post-coverage. In regards to Wilson’s outburst, one commentator said something along the lines of, “When you’re attending something like this, and you aren’t a part of the majority in the audience, all you should be doing is keeping your mouth closed and sitting on your hands.”

I hadn’t reminisced on that memory until last month with Student Government Association Vice President Rohini Sethi’s post on social media.

Just because the First Amendment says you can doesn’t always mean you should.

I understand that it is a right in this country to practice free speech in almost any capacity. Yet even so, it doesn’t hurt to exercise a little bit of common sense. Does publicizing your opinion on hot-button issues mean you can be punished for it, even if it is not widely accepted? Not quite. Can it lose the respect that people once had for you? Most definitely.

Nine times out of 10, someone losing respect for another person is perfectly fine. People don’t always agree with each other and life goes on. Sethi’s case is, unfortunately, the tenth. She was elected to represent the students.

It’s safe to say that at UH, the sentiments that she wrote about on her Facebook account are not widely shared among the students.

When you represent something that big and that diverse, it serves no good to form and publicize an opinion upon such a trending issue without being expressly asked or told to do so. It only disrupts cohesion among the very students she represents.

Sethi missed the perfect opportunity to sit on her hands and sit this fight out. The damage has been done.

SGA has won some of my respect back by relenting on the sanctions it had originally placed upon Sethi. Now that she has declared to take a three-week leave voluntarily, they are no longer wide open for a civil rights lawsuit.

Another action that SGA took that I thought was a big step forward for them was holding several town hall meetings to initiate dialogue between senators and students. That is what SGA should do all the time — not just when an SGA official messed up.

Discourse creates a clearer message to our leaders about what we as students want, and don’t, from them. I only hope that next time something this big goes down, it is about actions rather than words.

Assistant opinion editor Thomas Dwyer is a broadcast journalism sophomore and can be reached at [email protected]

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