I recently came across the new,“Never Stop Improving TCU” survey, administered by the Student Government Association. However much optimism I have, I had a difficult time believing that SGA has any interest in changing or improving and moreover, any interest in my opinion, or yours. Recently, our student government has taught us that it is interested only in its own self interests and not the student body. I feel betrayed when I read SGA’s website, which states “SGA is the official collective voice of the Student Body. We want to hear what you have to say!”
I present to you three recent examples through which it can be readily inferred that SGA is not accountable to, nor is the collective voice of, the student body and must change.
Example 1: SGA Suspends the Constitution
Last semester, on April 12, SGA made a daring move in order to do what it deemed “fulfilling our mission of serving students.” It suspended the SGA constitution. The Student Government’s responsibility, according to its preamble, is “to represent, in all instances, the collective voice of the Student Body.” I found that in the preamble of the governing document, which is suspended along with the rest of the constitution. At the time, Neeley Representative Cody Westphal was quoted as saying, “[I am] opposed to suspending the Constitution because [I think] the House [is] setting a dangerous precedent by throwing out rules members did not like.” Another House member, Trevor Melvin, stated that “suspending the constitution was not the right way to address the inconsistencies between the constitution and the Student Body Code.” Unfortunately, the suspension of the Constitution was passed by exactly a two-thirds vote by House. This really raises the question – can SGA do whatever it wants? I do not know the answer to this question, but since the suspension of this document it appears that the level of accountability to students by SGA has become, if not minimized, absent in its entirety.
Crucial question #1: Can we trust a student government without an active governing document?
Example 2: InterCom: SGA President removes IIS seat
This semester a board seat from “Intercom,” a group of students who work with the Board of Trustees to “cover the collective TCU student experience,” was removed by SGA president Brent Folan. And as much as he could beg to differ, Intercom IS SGA. According to section five of the SGA Constitution, “the [SGA] president shall… serve as the Chair of Intercom.” The problem is this: This is the only public description of the role of the SGA President in Intercom. Historically, the president has not had such a powerful role as ours has had this year. It almost appears as if our current president is using Intercom for his own personal means by utilizing it outside of the interests of the general student body and subsequently ignoring a large amount of students on campus. Intercom members themselves have disagreed outwardly with the amount of power the president has given himself over Intercom. What has the purpose of Intercom become?
President Folan removed one of the two Inclusiveness and Intercultural Seats on Intercom, what many deem to be the traditional “minority” department. Nevertheless, do not be confused – this was not a minority issue; this was an issue of overriding authority and failure to hear the voice of the students. The seat that he removed was formerly held by senior, Jordan Mazurek. Several organizations including the NAACP, Latino Student Association and Multicultural Greek Council, blasted our president. Asian Student Association Vice President, Nathan Wang, stated “It’s not fair. We need our voices to be heard and taking a seat off just limits us. It’s kind of intimidating…"After these criticisms, our president stepped back, apologized, and decided to change some aspects of Intercom. I assure you however, that the changes were not significant as it was the president, and SOLEY the president that made the decision to remove the seat. This power held by the president has not changed as there was and still is no collaboration, mutuality or separation of power. As a result, our president overstepped the bounds of his authority by disguising his gains as something better for the students, which it was not.
Crucial Question #2: Can we trust our SGA President to hear the voices of ALL students?
According to the Brent Folan, “[the] Cabinet unanimously approved the project on April 9 .” The money for the statue, which is normally used for the annual concert, become a “residual fund.” This past Tuesday (10/23) the SGA Cabinet was asked if there was a unanimous decision to commission the statue, which costs $6 for each student, or 7.3% of the entire SGA budget (SGA Budget: $690,000; SGA fee $90 p/y). The Cabinet refused to respond, and continues to do so; however, the president maintains the decision was unanimous. Subsequently, students attending asked for the minutes of the meeting in question to determine if there truly was a unanimous decision, and for the next 24 hours students all over campus demanded these hours to be made public. At first, minutes “could not be found.” Next, both coincidentally and comically, the minutes were said to have destroyed when SGA Chief of Staff, Evan Folan, and brother of president Brent Folan, claimed that his computer “crashed.”
What are the odds that a computer, the only computer containing the minutes to the most controversial and potentially abusive use of student tuition funds, be unattainable and accounted for? Moreover, if the decision was in fact made by Folan only, how can we trust his little brother with the information that would otherwise incriminate him?
Crucial Question #3: What must we do to change SGA for the better?
Conclusion: Bring forth your problems, quarrels and suggestions to the SGA public House meeting on Oct. 30. at 5 p.m.
Jonathan Davis is a senior political science and psychology double major from Niagara Falls, Canada.