Tweedledumb and Tweedledumber: Cougar clowns miss nuance, details in recent SGA report card

John Lomax (left) in clown makeup next to Jordan Navarijo (right) also in clown makeup on a circus background, representing their failure to report on SGA

The Tweedles in question. | Jose Gonzalez-Campelo/The Cougar

Spiro Hoxha is a former senator under the 60th SGA administration and currently serves as the SGA-appointed representative on the Equity for Students with Disabilities Committee and Student Fees Advisory Committee.

Recently, The Cougar wrote an article grading the 60th Student Government Administration. Unfortunately, the article completely fails to do this well. Not only does it lack context and specificity, it also neglects to truly consider the outgoing administration’s successes and failures or compare it to previous administrations.

The article’s author, Jordan Navarijo, uses an academic-style grading scale to evaluate SGA. An A+ would mean a highly successful administration, while an F would mean they failed to do their job well.

But without a high-quality rubric, this grading system is far from objective. What does an A+ SGA look like? Which administrations is Navarijo comparing the 60th to? Navarijo’s inability to compare administrations means that his grading is off. 

The article claims that the Walk in the Dark event organized by the 60th administration had low turnout, which proves that they failed to get students to engage with SGA. First, there’s no citation for this claim, but they also failed to consider whether previous administrations had higher or lower attendance than the 60th. 

Furthermore, they only graded student engagement based off one event. Under our administration, engagement with both campus facilities and the Dart Center actually increased — something a simple look at the Dart Center’s SFAC presentation clearly shows.

Navarijo makes errors like this throughout the article. He points out problems within the 60th administration, but treats them as issues unique to this admin rather than seeing them as more complex structural problems. For example, the consistent vacancies Navarijo critiques are common in student government, not something endemic to Rizk’s cabinet. People slack all the time.

In fact, the 60th administration actually appointed a new roster of senators to replace those who couldn’t handle the workload, something past administrations were often hesitant to do.

It’s a PR issue. If you kick out senators who were on the ballot with you when you initially ran for office, it runs the risk of making you look bad. The 60th administration used our accountability mechanisms to make sure senators were doing their job, which is a good thing.

I confronted The Cougar about this in a conversation between me and the article’s author, as well as The Cougar’s editor in chief, John Lomax. During that discussion, they couldn’t definitively say whether the 60th administration had more turnover than previous administrations.

Instead, they offered qualitative statements like “I was there” or “I remember.” However, they couldn’t answer questions when pressed about recency bias, the lack of specificity or the lack of comparison between SGA administrations.

The Cougar wants student body president Benjamin Rizk to motivate people to do things they no longer have the capacity or desire to do. Many senators failed to accomplish their goals for personal reasons completely outside of work ethic, and pushing them past their limits would be wrong.

Throughout the article, the Cougar directly admits to this. At one point, they said that if Rizk was a good leader, he would be able to surpass institutional problems and barriers, which just isn’t how SGA works. In fact, the Cougar’s editor in chief, John Lomax, seems to misunderstand SGA in more areas than one.

At one point, he stated that SGA resolutions are the primary method for change within the university. Anyone who has held an SGA office knows that this is silly. Resolutions are Op-ed pieces for SGA — nothing more. I could write a resolution condemning Palestinian genocide, but that doesn’t do anything; it would just be a statement of that administration’s stance.

As a matter of fact, SGA actually did write a resolution to pressure the University to stop investing funds in weapon manufacturers two administrations ago, but it ended up making very little impact. The statement was made, but nothing came of the demands in the long run.

Change takes place through more than just resolutions, and the Cougar has consistently overlooked the grassroots organizing our administration was involved in.

We held a walk-out in conjunction with other student organizations where we took firm stance against the University defunding DEI programs and removing the LGBTQ+ resource center in compliance with Senate Bill 17.

This was a resolution and a direct action simultaneously, something the administrations before this one could not accomplish. Additionally, the 60th administration established a task force to help preserve DEI on campus. We also worked through the Student Fees Advisory Committee to fight for student fees to be spent in a way that actually helps students.

Despite these efforts, The Cougar doesn’t think SFAC’s efforts count as an SGA win. This makes no sense, considering that the 60th administration appointed most people that serve on the SFAC board.

Two SFAC members are senators, and I personally gave up my seat as a senator to be on the committee. We’re the only administration in recent memory to completely fill this committee. Even if SFAC is independent on paper, our administration chose the committee members because of their capacity for transformative work.

Finally, the Cougar dismissed this administration’s efforts in organizing the highly successful Gala for Gaza event by claiming that SGA’s involvement in organizing the Gala was minimal.

I take some responsibility for the misinformation about the Gala because I was tired and made an offhand comment about how I wished SGA involvement was more significant than it was – and it could’ve been.

However, I still consider myself part of the 60th administration, and I dare Lomax and Navarijo to ask the other organizers whether my involvement made a difference. Navarijo himself saw all the SGA volunteers at the Gala. All of these volunteers were necessary, and they all did back-breaking work despite us being short staffed.

It makes no sense to me that the direct action of the 60th administration was overlooked  in favor of criticizing our legislative docket, especially since The Cougar seems to think resolutions mean so little. Besides, our administration’s legislation count is only four less than the 57th administration. 

Overall, Navarijo’s review just doesn’t make sense. We raised $55,000 for Palestinian relief efforts and organized a protest with next to no resources. We also raised the minimum wage, got rid of plastic bags on campus, and revised the SGA election code. How do all these efforts supposedly not matter when compared to resolutions?

The Cougar also blamed this administration for how the Sugarland shuttle bus disaster was resolved, which is unfair. The Transportation and Parking Advisory Committee inherited this bus disaster because the 59th administration didn’t appoint people to the committee. If TPAC didn’t make the decisions they did this year, then we wouldn’t have shuttle buses at all.

The bottom line is that The Cougar only wrote this piece because they wanted another SGA article to come out during election week. Last year, they put out a similar article criticizing the 59th administration, led by former president Joshua Martin.

But these articles are far from equal. Unlike the article criticizing Martin’s administration, their most recent article is an entirely subjective analysis. The article discussing Martin’s hidden election code revisions reported on material happenings, rather than just laying out opinions without any evidence to back them up. 

Understanding SGA is difficult; it’s easy to look at student government from the outside and expect either nothing or the moon and back.

Navarijo seems to vaguely understand that SGA has limitations. He actually gives several examples in the article, such as the roadblocks surrounding putting Wudu stations on campus. He even says that the failures of the 60th administration aren’t indicative of a lack of effort but instead show SGA’s limitations.

So what does your metric mean in a context where the administration in question still accomplished a lot despite institutional limitations? No one within the administration has a problem with the negative press – we have a problem with a subjective and poorly written metric that replicates the aesthetic of objective grading.

Students are likely to take this grading as fact, which means it has a good chance to influence the election results. This is unfair for more than one reason, but especially because the current Students Unite Party is composed of entirely new people. Anyone looking at the election from the outside is likely to associate this grade with the incoming party.

You can’t just give the administration a below-average grade, tack on a “you tried your best,” then clarify that this is your opinion to cover your bases. People think The Cougar knows more than they do.

Finally, the 60th administration hasn’t concluded its time in office yet. Writing an article like this right before our administration leaves makes no sense. It’s irresponsible and unprecedented. Don’t count us out yet — we’re still going.

Spiro Hoxha is a political science junior who can be reached at
[email protected]

1 Comment

  • Dear Daily_Cougar,

    It’s tough informing the public, but perhaps sooner than self-spiting to portray yourselves as clowns, how bout you simply explain what you thought you were trying to do?

    Who knows? It might even encourage others to do the same, and we can get to the bottom of what we see that so many must believe represents the poor decision-making in America today.

    Michael Taggart
    Engineering Junior

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