As University-wide elections were held earlier this month, the ballot included a list of eight proposed amendments to the Student Government Association’s (SGA) constitution. Despite controversy surrounding the legitimacy of these amendments, all eight passed overwhelmingly.
We at the Wheel previously commented in our April 4 staff editorial “Spring Elections Mired in Problems” on the problems surrounding the passage of these amendments. These issues included vague, ambiguous wording on the ballot and lack of accessibility to students prior to voting.
Now, newly-elected College-wide representative Aaron Tucek has filed an official complaint against the SGA Elections Board’s lack of procedure regarding these amendments. The resulting hearing, held by the Constitutional Council, has only reinforced our belief in the stance that we affirmed two weeks ago and made us all the more wary of the elections process. We are frustrated by SGA’s lack of democratic process and encourage the Constitutional Council to validate this complaint and consider overturning the referendum.
It is clear that the Elections Board violated the elections code. The SGA constitution explicitly states that all proposed amendments must be sent to students at least 48 hours before the elections. Instead, students received an email 20 minutes before the ballot went out. While this may not seem like an egregious violation, it may set a dangerous precedent and undermine the validity of the Elections Code.
The Election Board’s primary argument was that, though they did not specifically send out an email, the amendments were available to the students beforehand. In an April 15 Wheel article, College senior and Elections Board Chair Matthew Pesce, who represented the Elections Board during the hearing, cited the Wheel and the SGA website as a resource through which students could have accessed the bill.
Though we distributed this information, the Elections Board should have itself distributed the information through a University-wide email using accessible, succinct wording that would be used on the ballot – which should perhaps be voted on by SGA members – to describe the changes to the Constitution. SGA should be responsible for disseminating this information to its constituents in order to make voting as informed a process as possible. While this information was available on its website, the Elections Board has a democratic responsibility to attempt to make elections as educated as possible.
Pesce also openly acknowledged that he had not read the entirety of the referendum and that few students would have paid attention if the Elections Board had publicized the referendum. This gives the impression that the Elections Board holds cynicism at best and lack of interest at worst in the elections process and that it believes students feel similarly. Whether that is true or not, it is the role of SGA and its Elections Board to reach out to students and attempt to increase interest in the elections within the student body, not to show disinterest themselves. We are disturbed by this presentation of SGA officers: it is their very duty to be informed.
We acknowledge that part of the student population will not demonstrate interest in these issues no matter what SGA does. However, it is SGA’s responsibility to create accessibility in its elections, and it is unacceptable to condone a violation to the Elections Code because of perceived student apathy.
We strongly urge the Constitutional Council to decide in favor of Tucek and to reverse the referendum.
The above staff editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel‘s editorial board.