SGA on right track

IUS Horizon

SGA stands for the Student Government Association. Last week, several of its members took a small step toward recognizing and living up to part of the responsibility that comes with being a government entity.

During their last meeting, the SGA was unable to enter a secret executive session to discuss the confirmation of a new senator.

According to its bylaws, the SGA must have a two-thirds majority to enter executive session, and not enough senators wanted to close the chamber doors.

Kudos to the ones who did not.

The SGA can only go into executive session for confirmation proceedings, disciplinary proceedings, and for advisers to address the senate. No decisions on legislation may be made during executive session.

Why should any SGA matters be discussed behind closed doors at their meetings? Richard Young, press secretary, said during the meeting he doesn’t see why any SGA business should be conducted outside of the public eye.

He is completely right.

Confirmation proceedings should be public. The students deserve to know why someone is confirmed as a senator or not.

Similarly, disciplinary proceedings should be public. Students deserve to know who is not fulfilling their duties, in what ways they have fallen short, and what is going to be done about it. Senators must be held accountable, not only to their fellow senators but to the students they represent.

Chief Justice Jeff Martin said disciplinary hearings should be closed in case “bad stuff comes up.”

I disagree. Students should know about the actions of their representatives, whether good or bad.

By the same token, the senators who are taking disciplinary action should be accountable to students to make sure their actions are appropriate.

Frankly, the refusal to discuss a matter in public gives the impression that the SGA has something to hide.

The SGA has some important responsibilities. They don’t make policy directly, but they influence it through their representation in the faculty senate and their relationships with the administration.

But more importantly, they spend money. Sometimes they spend a lot of money. And a large portion of that money comes from student activity fees. Any organization spending money from student activity fees must be held accountable.

The SGA can’t spend money in executive session, but they discuss decisions about who is confirmed as and who remain senators. Senators spend the money. Thus, the SGA discusses important decisions in executive session that affect the spending of student activity fees.

The SGA isn’t officially bound by sunshine in government laws because they are not an official governing body, but they should recognize the need for openness and accountability in their proceedings.

Going into executive session violates the spirit of sunshine laws. Just because they are not bound by sunshine laws doesn’t mean they shouldn’t abide by their spirit.

If something is important enough to discuss at a meeting, it needs to be discussed publicly. If the matter is not something to be discussed publicly, what place does it have at a meeting anyway?

It seems many in the current batch of senators realize executive sessions are damaging to the student-student government relationship. I’m not sure throwing the book out the window and suspending the SGA’s bylaws was the best way to handle not being able to go into executive session, but their heads were in the right place. The bylaws are reinstated, but they are clearly in need of some amendment.

Now is the perfect time to add a sunshine in government law of their own.

The SGA should amend their bylaws to allow and require all business conducted at meetings to be held in the open and get rid of secret executive sessions for good.

By ZACH HESTER
Editor
zwhester@ius.edu