Before I joined College Council as a first-year legislator in August 2017, I was under the impression that student government existed as one of those arbitrary entities that held random, poorly attended programs, chartered clubs and didn’t do much else. But never could I have imagined student government to be so wildly salacious and awesome. Thanks to our Student Government Association (SGA) President Dwight Ma (17Ox, 19B), there is always some new scandal around the corner for us to ogle at. But Ma’s sham investigation of College Council (CC) was a step too far — someone must hold the rogue executive accountable.
While I did use the word awesome to describe our student government, I want to emphasize that I do not condone Ma’s actions as president. His exercise of power has been ignorant and foolhardy, overstepping constitutional, executive and divisional bounds.
It started out innocuously: Ma’s campaign strategy of wrangling strangers for votes at the DUC-ling and being investigated for buying drinks-for-votes at Maggie’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill, which, though unfounded, proved hilarious. He existed harmlessly in the realm of college humor.
Then he was elected SGA president.
Before I get too far into my criticism, it’s important to note that he’s a pleasant individual with a good temperament. He talks well to strangers and has just enough politician in him to listen to his constituency without seeming disingenuous.
However, to me and others, his failings as a president far outweigh whatever benefits his leadership style offers. His shenanigans began on a July evening with an email to the entire student body concerning an investigation into CC’s finances. In a highly unprecedented and almost rebellious move, Ma sent that email on his own. The bombshell email was sent without the knowledge of SGA’s VP of communications, Tiffany Haas (19C).
Once I read Ma’s email, I distinctly recall sending frantic texts to all the other CC members I could think of: “What’s going on?” “Do you know what the h**l happened?” “Did we actually do anything wrong?” “Does he seriously think he’s the Ma-ster of us?” My fellow CC members assuaged my concerns. They assured me that our financial records would vindicate us. We had done nothing wrong. And in an unsurprising turn of events, this proved to be true. The executive board of SGA unanimously voted to immediately stop the investigation.
This brings me to one simple question: where is the accountability?
There should be something done about a man that seems to be able to do anything without consequence, such as a Constitutional Council hearing to make sure Ma cannot continue unabated.
I understand that the error, in part, comes simply from being human; I am not seeking perfection from a college student placed in a position of power. However, I am expecting some semblance of decorum and procedure; falsely accusing another student government institution of fraudulent finances and declaring the unfounded claim to the entire student body fails to meet either of these expectations.
I am not expecting impeachment at this juncture. My ire has not hit that point. Yet. But I do think this is an avenue that has to rest in the back of the mind of the SGA legislators. They, if no one else, have the responsibility to act in the best interests of their constituency and support an efficient and effective government.
Ma has yet to demonstrate to the student body his capability to actually lead the SGA in a functional manner. The optimistic side of me hopes that this is a learning curve, but realistically, I’m not so sure. What I do know is that Ma can only be given so much time and so much margin for error before somebody must intervene.
This op-ed does not represent the views of College Council.
Lyndsey Garbee (21C) is from Sewickley, Pa.