Separation of Powers Necessary for Student Government

Emory’s student government has yet again found itself amid an ethical quandary: Jane Wang (22C), a Constitutional Council associate justice, was also elected to serve as a College Council freshman representative. Though nothing in SGA’s constitution explicitly prohibits students from serving on both College Council and Constitutional Council, such a conflict of interest is detrimental to an SGA administration that has consistently demonstrated a need for scrutiny.

SGA Attorney General Kaia Ordal (17Ox, 19C) showed a lack of judgment in her decision to green-light Wang’s dual roles in College Council and Constitutional Council. When reached out for comment, Ordal said she “saw no conflict of interest in [Wang being] involved in both organizations.” Had Ordal referenced past Constitutional Council cases, the conflict of interest would have rendered itself apparent.

While the Constitutional Council isn’t frequently used its single case since 2014 directly concerned last Spring’s College Council elections. After former Elections Board Chair Betty Zhang (20C) allowed only select candidates who declared their candidacy late to run for student government positions, the Constitutional Council recommended her resignation and upheld the electoral victory of one of the late declarers, now College Council President Radhika Kadakia (20C).

Given that Wang is a member of the highest judicial body, which holds both appellate and original jurisdiction over SGA and its subsidiary bodies (including College Council), it is a clear conflict of interest for Wang to also serve on College Council. Justices are supposed to be impartial, and although Wang could potentially recuse herself from a case involving College Council, there is a reason why U.S. Supreme Court Justices are not congress members on the side. Separation of powers is necessary to prevent unchecked administrative abuse, and SGA would not have had to exercise an unreasonable amount of effort to find another qualified candidate outside College Council.

We recommend that either Wang voluntarily step down from one of her positions to safeguard the integrity of our student government or that Ordal realize the ethical concerns of permitting Wang to serve in both roles. When reached for comment, Wang said she hopes “to make a positive impact on this campus.” We appreciate that sentiment and her participation in student government, but we urge her to realize the ethical concerns at hand. Finally, SGA should enumerate a more comprehensive constitution with guidelines to prevent such future dilemmas.

The editorial board is composed of Andrew Kliewer, Madeline Lutwyche, Boris Niyonzima, Shreya Pabbaraju and Isaiah Sirois. 

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