Commentary: New SGA amendment ‘detrimental’

In a whirlwind rush to go home on time, the Student Government Association (SGA) rubber-stamped a policy so detrimental to its operations, legitimacy and the usually smooth transition of power, that the progress made with direct elections may be lost in the fold.

For 80 years, there has never been a serious problem with the yearly transition of officers at the end of the SGA elected term. Simply put, the outgoing officers spend half the summer training their successors. If the outgoing officers are graduating seniors, they have always coordinated their schedules so they can still be around to train the next people in their place.

This practice is referred to as SGA’s “moral obligation,” and is written into the organization’s constitution. Even graduation, in the past, has not deterred officers from fulfilling the commitment they made to the association and student body that elected them. (And which they are paid to serve.)

Graduating seniors stop being presidents and vice presidents, but upon election we all know our moral obligation is supposed to guide us to train the next generation.

Thursday, the SGA Joint Senate officially learned two of its officers, President Rogan O’Handley and Executive Vice President Adriana Campos, will graduate May 5.

First and foremost, congratulations to them. This commentary has absolutely nothing to do with them or their graduation plans.

However, the student senate passed a bylaw amendment, after four minutes of debate, that not only relieves them – and all future seniors – of their moral obligation to SGA, but requires a vice president take O’Handley’s place when he graduates.

This means that instead of training a successor, a vice president with no presidential experience or training will have to leave his or her post and become president during the Summer I term. As an added consequence, during that training semester he or she will have to teach the new president how to do a job that he or she, never did and will have had no training in.

The educated eye should see the downward spiral this situation creates. Good vice presidents will become presidents. Their replacements will come in with no training. After a few years, all the training, skills and experience that people like myself have entrusted to them will be lost in this mess.

Maybe this is the direction SGA wants to go. Maybe this is the policy the organization wants to set: new faces, new perspectives. I can almost respect that, but the only argument made in favor of the change was “It’s not fair to Adri (Campos) and Rogan (O’Handley).”

In actuality, this has nothing to do with either of them, and it is a sad statement that your student senate changed one of its core policies, one that worked for 80 years, because some members felt bad for their friends.

SGA officers are paid advocates for the student body. The title comes with responsibility. Just ask the dozen or so graduating senior officers over the last 10 years who stuck around.

As a two-term vice president and a four-year senior member of the senate, I call upon President O’Handley to veto the amendment or advocate for its recall as a true testament to the dedication everyone knows he has for SGA – a dedication he shares with a long legacy behind him.

– John Guilfoil is a senior journalism and criminal justice major and former vice president for administration and public relations and executive vice president for student affairs for the Student Government Association. He is also a former member of The News staff.

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