Editorial: The (Uncontested) Winner Takes it All
Student Government Association (SGA) election season at the university is typically an eventful one. Candidates take to their social-media accounts to laud previous achievements within the organization and rattle off a series of (often empty) promises for the upcoming school year. This year, however, most students are completely unaware that there is a race, let alone that the elections are to occur later this week.
Although that hardly matters, because only one student is running for SGA president this year. Gianna Lorusso currently serves as the Chief Justice in the Executive Cabinet. Because her candidacy is uncontested, she will serve as the 2019-2020 student body president.
This situation is a metaphor for rampant political apathy among university students, which is a touchstone of campus culture. And it’s especially disheartening in light of recent history. The past few elections indicated a shift toward a more engaged and interested student body, exhibited by last year’s presidential race, featuring a slew of highly-engaged and at least partially qualified candidates. It seems as if we’ve hit the reset button and reverted back to the, “I don’t care unless it directly affects me,” attitude of yesteryear. Consequently, students do not have the opportunity to challenge their future leaders before the election and make a fully informed choice.
But there’s no use dwelling on the disappointing. Lorusso will have the opportunity to both build on recent SGA successes and rectify recent failures, and she ought to be held accountable for doing both.
Last year, SGA members drastically improved their website quality and, in a display of effort unseen in previous years, put forth an important and consequential proposal regarding student death to the Faculty Senate Committee on Undergraduate Education. From live-streaming monthly meetings to sending emails to the student body, communication between SGA and students has improved significantly. These achievements mark an increased presence of the organization in student affairs, and hopefully the trend will continue.
But despite these steps forward, members also frequently chose to take the side of university administrators instead of holding such people accountable for their questionable motives and decisions. Objectively, SGA is supposed to be a governing body that holds the administration accountable and represents students. Students want to elect SGA representatives — often the only students with a spot, although usually just as a formality, at the decision-making table — that will defend student interests over those of the administration.
At a time when the university moves forward at a breakneck pace with little student consent, making decisions that will leave a permanent imprint on the university, this is more important than ever.
And more generally, SGA has room for dramatic improvement concerning student representation. Let’s use a recent piece of city council legislation as a case study.
SGA had both the opportunity and responsibility to take a more substantial role in confronting the Unruly Social Gathering Ordinance, which caused mass uproar among students because of the implications it had on campus party culture. While the organization released a belated statement on the matter, it failed to serve as meaningful facilitator of communication among students and city council members.
But the responsibility is twofold, with the rest of the student body failing to engage until after the ordinance was passed, throwing their unconditional support behind an amateur (and immature) petition. At some level, SGA is only as strong as the students it represents. And judging by the lack of engagement with SGA and lack of interest in participating in it, those students are not very strong.
And we return to the original problem. Although it’s disheartening that more people aren’t interested in running for a position that should represent the promise of positive change on campus, we have hope that Gianna Lorusso, and SGA as a whole, will assume the role of conversation facilitator and campus changemaker going forward.
Even in a contested field, Lorusso, the only junior to serve in this year’s Executive Cabinet, would likely be the most qualified candidate. As an uncontested candidate, her responsibility to hear out diverse student interests and act upon them is even greater. It is The Review’s hope that Lorusso takes this responsibility seriously, and that her constituents do their part as well.
Editorials reflect the majority opinion of the editorial board, led this week by Alex Eichenstein. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.