Editorial: SGA’s Zoom politics do not bode well
On Wednesday, the candidates for all contested positions within the Student Government Association (SGA) debated over Zoom.
It was a great big online party to which everyone was (theoretically) invited. That party was a meant to be great triumph over coronavirus, a display that no pandemic can prevent the continued operation of the elected representatives of the student body.
However, if you’re most people, you could be forgiven for having completely missed it. The news that SGA was having debates came to The Review about a week in advance, marking the first time most of us heard about this key democratic function. Indeed, just getting a hold of the code to join the Zoom meeting was a minor hassle. Perhaps this speaks to a broader problem, though.
For other organizations on campus, coronavirus was a tragedy, a catastrophe, a cataclysmic, apocalyptic, monumental calamity. For SGA, it’s more or less been business as usual, and that’s precisely the problem: a sweeping pandemic made the representatives for the student body no more or less irrelevant than they usually are.
Ask any SGA member and they’ll likely agree that voter turnout and visibility are perennial problems for the organization. Indeed, if you’re most people, (and statistically speaking, you probably are) you may not know what SGA is.
SGA is a registered student organization. It is a parliamentary body of elected students. They have the power to hand proposals and initiatives to the university administration for their consideration.
“Throughout the year SGA holds events such as senate meetings to pass proposals to advance campus, student forums where students can ask top administrators their questions, and Campus Safety walks with the UD police to ensure that our campus feels comfortable and secure,” SGA’s website states.
They may speak on behalf of the students to the university, the City of Newark or any other body.
This year, three students have put themselves forward as candidates to be the next student body president: Mia Carbone, Stephanie Boateng and Luis Garcia Osorio. Sophomore public policy major John Cohill ran uncontested for executive vice president.
To give credit where credit is due, we should commend SGA for having contested elections. Last year, Gianna Lorusso ran uncontested for student body president. We are gratified to see more candidates engaging in the process, but that does not fix the underlying issues.
To put the thrust of this editorial briefly, however, SGA remains broadly inaccessible and obscure to the overwhelming majority of students. Their Zoom debates were emblematic of this insofar as few, if anyone, outside SGA knew about them, which means that only a tiny number of people were able to ask the candidates questions or learn about them before voting.
A recording of the Zoom debates became available on April 24 at bit.ly/sgazoomdebate, a day after voting had already begun. Voting for the 2020-2021 SGA Executive Cabinet ended on April 25.
Because their power is generally only in advising or petitioning other bodies, it would be unwise for The Review to criticize SGA candidates for having a somewhat paltry record on following through with their campaign promises and enacting change, for the simple reason that enacting change themselves is generally beyond their purview at the moment.
However, we do strongly recommend to this new Executive Cabinet that they expend a great deal of their energy in becoming more visible to the student body, who currently are only nebulously aware of their existence at best.
Candidates speak of implementing more outreach programs and improving relations with the students and administration year-after-year, but on review, their chief accomplishments seem to just be revising their own bureaucracy now and then.
Until such a time as SGA is more actively interacting with the student body (and the student body is more actively interacting with them), their key function will be to pad elected members’ resumes.
We don’t like that, and we bet SGA doesn’t much care for it either. If they want it to change, then some time has to be spent undertaking a serious effort to become more relevant. Contested elections are wonderful, but what does it matter if few people know what SGA does and even fewer vote in their elections?
Again, the fact that coronavirus shut down the campus and the country but did not make SGA function substantially differently is not a flattering picture we enjoy painting.
The Review’s weekly editorials are written to reflect the majority opinion of The Review’s staff. This week’s editorial was written by John Mitchell Patterson, executive editor. He may be reached at JMPatter@udel.edu.