The Student Government Association (SGA) voted down a bill Monday evening that would have added an option to vote no confidence in the direction the University is headed in this Thursday’s student leadership elections electronic ballot. The bill was amended to shift its focus from University President James W. Wagner’s leadership specifically to Emory’s direction as a whole.
Fourth-year student in the Laney Graduate School Andy Ratto authored the bill, which was tabled during the previous two SGA legislative sessions.
The SGA legislature debated the bill for about an hour on Monday evening.
“This is an opportunity for SGA to make clear that SGA needs to be heard,” Ratto said as he addressed all SGA legislators and executive officers. “It’s about saying, ‘Do we want the student body to have a say in the leadership of governance in this University?'”
After much deliberation, an amendment changed the language of the bill so that the ballot would ask “Do you have confidence in the direction of the University?” rather than “Do you have confidence in President James Wagner?” The amendment was approved by a vote of 16-9.
The amended bill, however, was ultimately voted down 6-14-3.
Before the amendment, SGA President and College senior Ashish Gandhi, who is not allowed to vote on any bills, stood in opposition to the bill.
“In my perspective, this has come in the aftermath of the Three-Fifths [Compromise] article [in Emory Magazine], not just the [department changes], or this could have happened three for four months ago,” Gandhi said. “The people who were directly affected by that comment, those who are African American – they have all forgiven him.”
Largely, the bill’s supporters consisted of graduate representatives of SGA, while opposition mainly came from SGA’s undergraduate legislators.
“There is an issue,” Laney Graduate student and SGA Laney Graduate School representative Chris Brown said. “It’s not good enough to say everything is fine. There is an issue around leadership at Emory, and President Wagner as president of the University is cemented in that.”
College junior Shaunesse Jacobs, an SGA junior class representative, acknowledged the difference in perspectives among undergraduate and graduate students.
“Grad students have a very different perspective from Emory undergraduate students, but we have addressed the problem,” Jacobs said. “We’ve decided that we want to move beyond this and set up ways to come together cohesively and address the problem so it doesn’t happen again.”
Undergraduate students raised concerns regarding the effectiveness and purpose of the bill and whether it was appropriate to hold such a vote alongside Thursday’s vote for student leaders.
“I hear people say a lot that we need to hear a student perspective on [leadership], but this is a college campus,” SGA assistant vice president of alumni relations and Goizueta Business School junior Jordan Angel said. “Students are allowed to voice their opinion at any point at time.”
Four graduate students attended the meeting and held up signs asking SGA members to support the bill.
“Students are not going to be leading; they are just going to be reacting,” said Andrew Zonderman, a second-year history graduate student and a supporter of the bill who attended the meeting. “We’re just going to have to take decisions that are made by faculty and administration.”
Following the meeting, Gandhi wrote in an email to the Wheel: “I think most of SGA voted against this bill because it would not have been constructive for the community. The department changes happened last semester – we have learned from that process.”
Following the conclusion of the meeting, Ratto declined to comment.
– By Nicholas Sommariva and Dustin Slade