Student government changes are needed – urgently

Whether through systemic or personal means, our leaders must be made accountable for representing students. | Elise Gregg, PantherNOW

PantherNOW Editorial Board

Student government is critical to the functioning of a university and for students to have a stake in how their school operates.

Sadly, some members of our SGA have been missing in action this semester. Though personal accountability is important here, we have to examine the system that allows absences to go unchecked.

One instrument of accountability is that any student at FIU can file writs to complain about members of SGA who aren’t doing their jobs. Unfortunately, these writs are handled by the judicial branch – a branch that has yet to begin work, with training and appointments dragging on.

In fact, SGA president Alex Sutton expects they won’t begin real work until next semester because of delays in appointments and training.

This has the effect of creating a group of free-riding senators who religiously collect their five hundred dollar stipend at the end of a year for a job not done. In this sense, the SGA is robbed of indispensable and capable young students who could have made an impact on an institution that needs brilliant minds.

Instead, the people who get the job first keep it. If they perform poorly, they aren’t replaced by other eager students who could do the job – they hang around, absent from Senate or Zoom cameras off.

Again, members of student government need to take personal responsibility for their jobs. However, the institutional framework in place facilitates this.

The judicial branch is wiped clean every summer and the president appoints practically all members of the branch.

Not only does this structure severely delay the work of justices and attorneys who keep all of student government accountable to their constituents, it means that a corrupt president could simply neglect to appoint anyone at all – with no accountability for doing so.

It’s a dangerous system.

In the short term, SGA leadership can work with the lack of accountability to a limited degree. Senate president Kailey Lachapelle promised to send emails to poorly performing senators asking them to resign.

When PantherNOW asked for updates, SGA leadership declined to comment for privacy reasons, adding that they are improving tracking office hours and communication about absences.

How effective this will be remains to be seen – senators can simply refuse to resign and knowing the problem doesn’t necessarily solve it.

However, PantherNOW also believes that the current constitutional convention is a step in the right direction to make sure governing documents reflect the needs of the student body.

Ultimately, however, a representative body that cannot count on all members, simply cannot legislate for the good of all.

It becomes an entity unable to articulate the will of the student body, because it cannot be sure that all students’ concerns are being weighed by invested representatives.

Whether through systemic or personal means, our leaders must be made accountable for representing students.

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