We Say Yes to Better Governance

Jake Greenberg is the Vice President of Administration and the Chief Restructuring Officer of College Council. William Palmer is the Chair of the SGA’s Governance Committee and was a lead author of the referendum bill.

We are two student government leaders and have seen both the challenges and successes of Emory’s student government.

Every day, we work to advocate for and advance the interests of the student body. Together with our legislative and executive-board colleagues, we met with University staff and administration to improve academic, resource, food and housing policies; we chartered new student organizations, allowing our peers to pursue their passions and diversify Emory with cultural experiences, song and dance, volunteering, athletics and academic opportunities. We distributed the Student Activity Fee (SAF) to fund programs, events and initiatives that bring our campus to life.

Student government is the voice of the student body — here to shape a better Emory experience and community for present and future generations. Our student government system, however, has its shortcomings. The structure of the government has not supported students equitably or been conducive to efficient policy making or implementation.

From Jan. 29 to Jan. 31, however, your vote can change that.

The structure of student government has real and tangible implications for the student body, contributing to the ability of student government members to address the needs of their constituents. It affects the ways in which students’ interests are aggregated and communicated to key university decision-makers and dictates how organizational and monetary policy decisions are made.

Our “federal government,” the Student Government Association (SGA), has historically been an undergraduate-led body with an undergraduate majority. Undergraduates have enough seats to pass almost all SGA legislation, decide the Student Activity Fee (SAF) distribution and oversee student policy and programming. The voices of 7,000 graduate students, who represent half of the enrolled student body, have become marginalized.

There are more issues to consider. The needs of smaller undergraduate constituencies, including Oxford College and the Undergraduate Nursing School, are suppressed because of SGA’s broad mandate to serve the entire university. SGA regularly struggles to create and implement policies that benefit a large yet diverse student population. Coordinating, communicating and partnering with 13 undergraduate and graduate Divisional Councils (“state governments”) poses numerous challenges for members across student government.

We believe it’s time for better student governance. We believe it’s time for change.

These issues will not go away, nor can be fixed, without major structural changes to our governance system. We want a better future for all students of Emory University. We want a governing system that equally supports the voices of undergraduate and graduate students, and is best suited to address their needs.

Members of student government conducted an extensive examination of our current structure, reviewed governance structures at peer institutions, discussed with constituencies, administrators and staff and participated in thoughtful debates. Representatives from every division of SGA almost unanimously passed the bill in support of change. But that only gets us halfway. Now it’s in the hands of the student body to pass the resolution to create a fairer and more effective student government.

This proposition will create two equal and autonomous bodies, the Student Government Association (SGA) and the Graduate Student Government Association (GSGA) governed by and for undergraduate and graduate students, respectively.

The governance, programming and financial needs of undergraduate and graduate students can best be addressed with independent, equal and autonomous representation.

This system will create a student government that represents and advocates for students equitably, better holds its governing officials accountable and represents all constituencies. We firmly support these principles, which are essential to creating better student governance.

We believe that student government appropriately vetted, evaluated and selected a solution to remedy the issues created by the existing governmental structure.

We encourage our peers, both undergraduate and graduate students, to vote YES on this proposition and create a more effective and equitable student government.

Voting will be held Sunday, Jan. 29 at 8:00PM to Tuesday, Jan. 31 at 8:00PM at www.emory.edu/vote.