In its first attempt at a legislative session, the 52nd legislature of the Student Government Association (SGA) rashly violated its Finance Code by considering changes to the distribution of the Student Activities Fee (SAF) without first notifying the student body.
Bill 52sl2 would not only change SAF distribution, but it would also “suspend” parts of the Finance Code “for the sole purposes of passing the legislation.” But the Finance Code exists for a reason: to protect students’ interests and check potential abuses of power by the student government. The Finance Code should not be suspended or changed without properly notifying, and gaining the approval of, the student body.
The bill was introduced in wake of SGA President Dwight Ma’s (17Ox, 19C) veto of the budget passed by the 51st legislature, an action that also violates the Finance Code. The Code states in Part II Section 6 that the previous legislature approves the budget for the next legislature. If Ma wanted to challenge the budget, he should have done so when the 51st legislature approved it on April 3.
SGA demonstrated astounding ignorance of procedural rules in allowing Bill 52sl2 to be placed on the agenda and to be read despite the objections of former SGA President Gurbani Singh (18B) and former Speaker of the Legislature and Senior Representative William Palmer (18C), who were both present at the meeting.
Despite failing to meet quorum for an official legislative session, newly elected student government leaders heard Bill 52sl2, which would redirect SAF money from Goizueta students that is currently allocated to College Council (CC) from 14 to 4 percent, instead allocating that 10 percent to BBA Council. Per Part II, Rule 6 of its bylaws, a quorum, “shall be maintained throughout the whole of all legislative meetings. In the absence of quorum, the Legislature has the power only to order a call of the House, to recess, or to adjourn.”
Further, the SGA Finance Code Part VII states that “All bills that amend the SGA Finance Code must be advertised to the university-wide student body before being heard by the Student Legislature on the daily calendar.” Thus far, SGA has made no effort to publicize the bill. We condemn this alarming first action taken by our new student government leaders, all of whom championed increased transparency of student government during their campaigns yet tried to set this bill in motion without first consulting the University student body.
Instead of holding a pseudo-meeting without quorum, SGA should have cancelled its session and publicized the bill.
Constitutional breaches aside, SGA should be wary of passing Bill 52sl2 prematurely. A large justification for BBA Council President Jay Krishnaswamy’s (16Ox, 19B) bill is an audit on Goizueta Business School clubs carried out last year by the previous BBA Council. According to that audit, some Business School clubs which host a large number of members who are students enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences do not receive enough funding from CC to reflect their membership, and instead are funded primarily by BBA Council funds. SGA should consider conducting its own independent review of club participation and exercise caution before passing any changes to SAF distribution.
Singh and Palmer urged legislators at the meeting to follow the processes codified in both the SGA constitution and Finance Code, to no avail. The fact that previous student government representatives found violations of SGA’s constitution in the first meeting of their new legislature shows a wanton ignorance of SGA’s procedures by the new student leaders.
Just as distressing is the fact that SGA is currently operating without an attorney general. Moving forward, the legislature must appoint an attorney general who is knowledgeable of SGA’s governing documents and is willing and able to check the kinds of oversights and abuses of power that have become commonplace in SGA in recent years.
The above Editorial represents the consensus opinion of the Wheel’s editorial board.
The editorial board is composed of Nora Elmubarak, Andrew Kliewer, Madeline Lutwyche, Boris Niyonzima, Shreya Pabbaraju and Isaiah Sirois.