The Maroon

Editorial: SGA, elections are not optional

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Loyola’s Student Government Association, which acts as the representative voice of the student body, has broken its election procedures for freshman senators by choosing not to hold fall elections for those positions.

Instead of holding elections, the SGA decided to start a new program called the First Year Council, where freshman are exposed to each of the three branches of the SGA before having to commit to a branch or make decisions.

This program lasts during the fall semester, after which freshmen can decide which branch of the SGA they wish to be on during the spring semester.

On the First Year Council, freshmen do not have voting rights like all other members of the Senate.

This isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but the issue lies not in the idea, but in our representatives ignoring the laws that they were elected to uphold.

The election procedures are outlined in the Student Government Association Elections Code, the document regulating how elections are to be carried out.

Article III of the code is titled “Fall Elections for First Years.” It explicitly says that there should be one freshman senator elected from each College, totaling out to four.

The code isn’t ambiguous. It outlines a very specific process on how the elections should be carried out. There should have been informational sessions that were advertised in advance. The process should have taken place within a specific number of days after the semester started.

If the SGA wanted to eliminate fall semester Senate seats for freshmen, they should have amended the Elections Code before they were required to hold elections, as mandated by Article I of the Code. They didn’t do this, so there should have been elections.

Elections weren’t held either, probably because the SGA was preoccupied with getting the First Year Council started. There is a problem with this.

Elections are not optional.

The SGA has a right to create an educational council for freshmen, but they do not have a right to carelessly forget to hold elections to do that.

Organizing a governmental organization isn’t easy, and people are fallible. There are many regulations and procedures that have to be learned, and it can be difficult. That’s understandable, but it’s part of the job.

Consciously setting aside basic election procedures – with or without the intention to change them later – violates the creed which they were elected to follow and even campaigned for.

The purpose in writing this is not to undermine our elected officials. It isn’t to attack their character. It’s to bring up an issue that seems to be systemic.

The SGA was caught doing something similar in the spring elections of 2013. They removed positions from the ballot without allowing students to vote on a constitutional amendment, which was required to cut those positions.

This isn’t as severe. All that is necessary for the removal of freshmen senators is for the Commissioner of Elections to amend the Elections Code with the approval of the President or Vice President: an already low standard for such an important issue as elections and representation.

While not as severe, it still sets a dangerous precedent. Once it’s decided that a certain process enshrined in the legal code is unimportant, it becomes easier to make the same determination for other parts of the system. The legal code becomes less meaningful, and governing the student body becomes arbitrary.

No doubt, the intention behind creating the First Year Council is a good one. It’s meant to educate new members and create a more robust student government.

Doing this outside the legal process, though, educates new members that their obligations are malleable and don’t have to be followed. This defeats the purpose.

This episode brings up a few issues that we should have a community conversation over.

First, students need to ask themselves how important the Student Government Association is to them. If the student body took the function of the SGA more seriously, and rewarded them when they do something meaningful, they might be compelled to go read the Elections Code.

Second, the SGA should reanalyze their priorities. We all like food, music and other fun activities, and if you offer us that, we won’t turn you down. However, the commitment to Third Friday and the Pumpkin Carving Contest seems to outweigh the commitment to the legislative process and the fate of the University President. It should be the other way around.

Third, we all should figure out how the SGA was able to avoid putting on an election. The Student Government President, Elections Board and faculty adviser should have kept a closer eye on this to avoid it happening. It’s one of their duties.

The obligation of The Maroon is to serve as the community news outlet for Loyola University New Orleans. When student governmental procedures are broken, it is news, and we will report it. However, we don’t want to report on our Student Government Association violating procedures.

Everyone in the Loyola community should help improve our Student Government Association so we won’t need to report on major mistakes every other year. It takes active participation from every student at Loyola to ensure this happens.

The editorial represents the majority opinions of The Maroon’s editorial board and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Loyola University. 

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Editorial: SGA, elections are not optional