Transparency key as SGA prepares for direct elections

At the first Joint Senate meeting under the new executive board Thursday, the Student Government Association (SGA) showed a disturbing willingness to close the doors of accountability.

A motion was made to bring the meeting into executive session, excluding the press – and the roughly 13,920 full-time undergraduate students who do not participate in student government – from the proceedings.

The matter at hand was the first-ever Senate confirmation of the SGA parliamentarian, who will chair direct elections scheduled for the spring. Far from being delicate, personal or confidential, the matter was an important one that will directly concern the students.

The motion was defeated, but narrowly, and not until the Senate seriously entertained the idea of conducting their business under the cover of a veil of secrecy. Although it may be comfortable for the Senate to avoid the glare of public scrutiny, it makes us squirm – and the student body should feel the same way.

This should be SGA’s banner year. In the spring, all undergraduate students are slated to vote for their student body president. But in order to make that level of student involvement a reality, students have to feel they are part of the process. If they are excluded from the proceedings leading up to the vote, they aren’t going to have much enthusiasm for getting involved.

One of the most often cited reasons American voters don’t go to the polls is they don’t feel their single vote makes a difference. SGA must guard against creating a similar sentiment in the student body, who will likely be turned off if they see closed-door decision making and a self-selected elite calling the shots.

Executive session is not to be used casually. It should be used only to protect confidential matters, not as a shield whenever SGA would rather be left alone. As the student group that controls the Student Activities Fund and speaks for the students on many committees, SGA must be held to a higher standard of transparency. Failure to maintain that transparency will doom direct elections before they begin.

We don’t want that. We support direct elections, and come spring, we hope the student body turns out to vote in unexpected numbers. But we don’t expect that will happen unless SGA lets the light of public scrutiny shine.

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