SGA needs to fix its work culture

Jose Gonzalez-Campelo/The Cougar

The Student Government Association has had a rocky few weeks as former President Joshua Martin lost the re-election he contested that deemed Benjamin Rizk of the Students Unite party the winner. 

This is not the first time an administration has caused a rift in the elections nor the first time SGA has done something to make the students wonder how they got there. It is vital that students know the recurring patterns that are seen throughout each administration as it sets up the stage for the incoming one. 

Some might think that the discrepancies of this administration start with the election code changes or the increase in campaign spending caps enacted by President Joshua but although these are all red flags, the real issue lies within the culture of SGA and its inability to work together to reach a common goal. 

A common theme throughout each administration is how members of SGA feel discouraged by the process that ends up putting opposing parties apart rather than working on compromising. 

Senior psychology major Esmeralda Ledezma was a senator for the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences in the 59th administration but ultimately left her position. 

“What drew me to SGA at the beginning was having the opportunity to represent my college, especially knowing that there were a lot of issues in CLASS and wanting to be part of the solution,” Ledezma said. 

“I genuinely just did not look forward to the meetings anymore, because I knew they were going to be unproductive. And the reality is that we weren’t going to compromise on things that the opposing (party) ran on and the party that I ran on,” Ledezma continued. 

This sentiment can be seen in the 58th administration where senior political science major David Paul Hilton was the Former Speaker of the Senate who resigned from his position after experiencing a continuous lack of communication among the organization and unnecessary meddling from the Supreme Court. 

“There was a move to push a bill that would amend the recall special election code to basically allow for campaigning,” Hilton said. “That went through the Senate (which) was then brought to the Supreme Court and they said that it was unconstitutional.”

“Just by bringing that to the floor, we were all barred from student government until the first of January,” Hilton said. 

These are just a few instances throughout the years where former members of SGA have called out the organization for prioritizing their personal agendas rather than focusing on the task at hand. 

As adults in college, there shouldn’t have to be a lesson on how to work with other people who do not share the same views as you. Arguably, it could be a place to learn how to gain these skills but if each administration is unable to pass those skills down to the next administration because of a petty rivalry, is that really student government? 

Even then, future students who want to become involved in SGA have to learn about its history and current predicaments to make sure the same mistakes are not repeated. Its lack of accessibility makes it difficult for students with different perspectives and backgrounds to get involved. 

It’s also safe to say that a majority of the students do not hold this much time or dedication to be able to reconstruct SGA entirely. The culture and politics of SGA are something that can only be reconstructed through years of collaboration of administrations, not a single academic year. 

If each administration is unaware of the goals and workings of the previous administration, how can they become better for the student body? 

How can they become more inclusive and collaborative if they are blind to previous mistakes? 

It’s a hard task to tackle and an even harder truth to accept: SGA needs to reconstruct its current culture because the current system is not where it needs to be. 

With the incoming administration, members of SGA should be clear about their goals and expectations. They should be able to make suggestions, accept rejections and take in criticism without taking it personally. 

As an organization meant to represent its students, it’s vital that SGA strives to fix this overarching issue not just for the future of SGA but for the students they claim to serve. 

Cindy Rivas Alfaro is a journalism sophomore who can be reached at [email protected]

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