News Student Government

First meeting of new SGA administration hampered by procedural issues

Members and students fill the SGA Senate Chamber during Wednesday’s April 3, meeting.  |Raphael Fernandez/The Cougar

Heated disagreements plagued the 61st Student Government Association’s inaugural meeting, with senators and students calling questioning the administration’s transparency and accountability. 

The first meeting of SGA President Diego Arriaga’s tenure was supposed to consist of the appointment of the Speaker of the Senate and the executive cabinet. However, issues regarding the meeting’s agenda and the lack of executive application materials for senators made this plan difficult.

“I stand before you as a senator who, as of right now, has lost trust and faith in our executive branch given the current dynamic they have created already,” said Sen. Mohib Awan. “Manyof the promises regarding open transparency and open communication amongst the executive and legislative branch have completely dissolved.”

The first issue students and senators raised was the lack of transparency regarding executive appointments. Some senators did not have access to the recorded interviews of applicants, and senators did not get nominations despite being promised one by Arriaga, according to biology sophomore Aihanuwa Ale-Opinion and other senators.

“Most of the interviews were not made available to senators, and the few that were were recorded yesterday,” Ale-Opinion said. “Some applicants with extensive resumes were promised nominations after interviewing, only for the nominations to completely change without their knowledge.” 

The Senate decided to table all executive cabinet appointments slated for the meeting because of these issues. In its place was the first reading of a vast slate of new legislation. One resolution introduced, titled Recognition of Senate Sovereignty, affirms the ability of the Senate to deny any appointments to the executive cabinet.

Another point of contention between the Senate and the president was how they would vote on the Speaker of the Senate. Many senators took issue with how the speaker vote was initially scheduled to be the last item on the meeting agenda — something that they claimed violates the SGA by-laws.

“Electing the speaker first during the meeting is in the SGA bylaws,” said Senator Jesus Nieto before the meeting. “The Senate is certain about motioning to have the speaker elected before anything gets done.”

According to the SGA bylaws, the Senate will “proceed to the election of the Speaker” at the first meeting of an administration. However, Nieto said that the clause regarding the speaker election is up to interpretation.

Arriaga and Craig eventually conceded to the Senators’ demands after hearing their remarks at the beginning of the meeting and allowed the vote for the new speaker to take place immediately. The Senate unanimously elected Senator Sebastian Ballesteros.

“I love hearing people’s opinions and hearing their voices,” Arriaga said. “I am here for the senators coming forward and voicing their concerns and questions.” | Raphael Fernandez/The Cougar

According to Arriaga, the Speaker vote was scheduled as the last item to “end on a high note,” but he changed his plans after hearing from Ballesteros and other senators.

Senators also quarreled with Arriaga on former SGA President Joshua Martin’s involvement with his administration — specifically on Martin’s advisory role and his presence during interviews for cabinet applications. Arriaga claimed he has consulted with both Martin and previous SGA President Benjamin Rizk but strictly for input and advice, and that two are not directly influencing his administration. 

“I am hesitant to give Arriaga the benefit of the doubt because he promised that certain characters would not be involved in this new executive branch, but they are advising Arriaga,” Nieto said. 

Despite the initial drama and change of plans, Arriaga remains optimistic about the future of his administration and apologizes for the confusion regarding executive appointments.

“I love hearing people’s opinions and hearing their voices,” Arriaga said. “I am here for the senators coming forward and voicing their concerns and questions.”

[email protected]

Leave a Comment