Rushing, I submitted my commencement speech application just before the 5pm deadline, wiped the sweat off my brow, and then eagerly waited for the response back.
Days passed; but a day before the scheduled auditions, no one had been contacted by the commencement speech Chair yet. Other students who applied were hounding me about it (since people still assume I’m in SGA), so before I ran off to work, I stopped by the SGA office. I asked the SGA president at the time if he knew anything; “no.” Well do you have a direct way of contacting the chair, like her phone number?; “no, I don’t give out personal phone numbers.” Can you just call her for me then?; “no.” I got a bit annoyed because it was pretty unhelpful, and I wouldn’t be able to email her until after work since my phone was about to die, so I became visibly annoyed and just left.
20 minutes later though, with my phone on its last breath, I got a rejection email from the commencement Chair. Of course, nothing is wrong with being rejected, yet I had been one of the last people to submit my application, and those before me had still not received a response, so this was slightly questionable…
And so it began.
I emailed the chair back to get a more detailed explanation for my rejection but received a non-answer that everyone else also got if they asked for more information. Then I learned that the Chair, a senator on SGA, was responsible for reviewing all of the applications for all of the colleges, alone. It was only at auditions that students were judged by a group of people.
As most people can tell, this is terribly problematic and can lead to possible abuse. I knew I had to change this system somehow, but who could I go to? I was pretty sure the SGA leadership would not be very helpful (they never were when I wanted to change anything), and my experience with the SGA advisor last year still made my stomach churn.
So I went to the administration.
I am very aware of how strange and hypocritical this must sound coming from me. I, who claims SGA is a puppet of the administration’s at the expense of students, was now going to ask the administration for help with SGA. Yet SGA wasn’t only acting as a puppet for the administration now; now it was excluding and discriminating as well. If the administration could help change that, it was worth it.
First, I had to figure out who in the administration I could go to. There are processes for students if they feel discriminated against by faculty or staff, but none for discrimination by a student organization. Student to student discrimination is dealt with by the student deans though, so I went to them.
Acting as an advocate for me (taking SGA’s job), they set up a meeting with next year’s SGA advisor and next year’s OSI director and I.
In the midst of all this, SGA elections occurred. Regardless of who won in the end, there were quiet accusations of unfair canvassing practices and unequal treatment of candidates by the SGA elections board, especially since the board is internally run and friends of candidates sit on it. Next, the DePaulia came out with an article totaling the number of SGA senators to resign in protest this year at a whopping 12. Senators who resigned cited an all too powerful leadership and cabinet, and a hierarchy of initiatives. All of this made me reconsider simply discussing the commencement speech process with the administration – now I expanded it to include what I saw as the root issue of lack of SGA oversight and the need for some kind of check on such an influential organization.
In our meeting I was surprised with their receptiveness, but am still holding my breath to see what actually comes of this.
As I mentioned, we discussed SGA oversight and focused on:
- Changing the commencement speech process to include more people reviewing the applications before auditions, especially people from the specific college
- They are going to work with the Senator in charge of this to change it, and see what they can come up with as a new process to roll out next Winter quarter (2016)
- Elections and equal enforcement of the rules
- Not sure what specifically can be done right now, but hopefully the SGA advisor can be more aware of what goes on in this regards and help fairly enforce the rules
- Instances of SGA discrimination/issues/etc
- We discussed how some students might not want to go to the Dean of students for student-student discrimination, so instead we could try to create another process that incorporates mediated conversations and reconciliation
So what happens when your SGA is so bad you turn to the administration? I’m not entirely sure but at least they were more willing to listen and possibly help than SGA itself has been. For the actual results of all this though, I will post an update in January 2016. Stay tuned.