The Student Government Association (SGA) and Campus Life’s continued attempts to obfuscate public information regarding student funds are a disservice to the Emory undergraduate student body. If SGA President Dwight Ma (17Ox, 19C) genuinely wants to meet the high standards he touted in his platform and in his emails, he needs to immediately release what should already be public information concerning SGA’s investigation into College Council (CC) spending.
When Ma launched the probe in July 2018, Student Governance Services, CC and SGA leaders denied the Wheel’s requests for all financial documents and records related to the inquiry. Legislators’ insistence on keeping their administrative activities hush-hush is underhanded and self-interested, and ultimately undermines SGA’s political legitimacy.
Ma’s refusal not only violates Article VII of SGA’s constitution, which states that “the papers of the SGA shall be considered public records.” It also runs counter to his campaign platform, wherein he pledged to make SGA “accessible and accountable.” SGA’s refusal to comply with its constitution is a troubling shift from that campaign promise. Ma positioned himself as an outsider candidate who would clean up and revamp SGA, yet transparency seems all but absent from SGA’s current priorities.
The Wheel requested the records to independently verify Ma’s claims that CC is possibly overspending on food and travel. To justify his investigation, Ma cited “two whistleblowers” and “an additional report from within College Council” in a July 22 email to undergraduate students, but declined to make either the sources or governing documents public.
We believe in the power of transparency not only to expose and prevent mistakes but also to protect — not vilify — potentially inexperienced student legislators who are placed in positions of power. Legislators and paid staff members who choose to defend another SGA administration seeking to act without proper supervision and culpability are inviting scandal, embarrassment and ineptitude as a regular presence in student government.
Despite Ma’s statement that “[e]veryone at Emory who pays a student activity fee deserves to know what is happening with it, without bias, and without delay,” the investigation into CC finances has been quietly cancelled without notifying the student body. Even though SGA is no longer investigating CC, students should not be satisfied with an interpretation of events handed down from SGA, a necessarily biased account.
Ma is not the only guilty party. Associate Director of Student Governance Services (SGS) VonYetta Hunter’s rejection of the Wheel’s request for what SGA’s constitution defines as public information is also a problem. If a hired administrator can flout the SGA constitution without recourse, then SGA’s claims to political legitimacy are lost.
The editorial board is composed of Andrew Kliewer, Madeline Lutwyche, Boris Niyonzima, Shreya Pabbaraju and Isaiah Sirois.