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Editorial: SGA takes baby steps toward campus improvement

This year will end my third year at VSU, but it will be the first year observing the well-oiled machine that the Student Government Association can be.

According to their page on VSU’s website, SGA’s earliest record starts in 1978, meaning that the organization is at least 39, going on 40, years old. From the average 40-year-old, it’s expected for a certain wisdom to have been acquired from their years of experience, but my experience with SGA is one that’s seen dysfunction and mistrust before its  2017-2018 run.

During my first year at VSU, SGA  lacked presence in comparison to now. As I progressed into my second year, SGA essentially placed their heads in the clouds.

SGA was riddled with strife in its 2016-2017 year. At  every meeting, one or multiple students would complain about parking or student offices. Unfortunately for them, these issues were trivial to SGA’s internal strife.  Spectator news coverage reflected this with headlines like “SGA proposes impeachment,” and “Proposed bill stirs controversial conversation in SGA.”

The effects of these ordeals caused some SGA members, like former vice president Othellius Cato, to leave immediately and others to finish out the term and never return.

Former SGA senator Silas David said he left because saw he couldn’t impact VSU in a large way like he wanted.

“I wanted to make a larger impact on the university and there’s only so much of an impact you can make in student government,” David said.

David said that only a small percentage of SGA’s members actually care about making an impact on VSU. He said that this is what stops SGA from being an impactful force.

Current SGA Senator Carrington Lewis said that even on the current SGA senate, there are senators who only want to use the position as a resume builder.

“We definitely need people who are actually going to be active and not just in SGA for alternative reasons like to pledge and to just have a senator title,” Lewis said. “I definitely feel like the current senators that we have now are in it for that reason.”

Lewis makes a great observation, but throughout the 2017-2018 year, SGA made it their mission to fix as many issues as possible.  Parking is one issue  students constantly complain about.

During the spring 2018 semester, SGA unveiled the Tiered Parking Model, a potential solution to all students’ parking issues. One thing though: David said that SGA didn’t help come up with the plan.

“The administration came up with the parking model and brought it to SGA,” David said. “Now SGA is like ‘We came up with the parking model.’”

David said that administration also came up with the Blazer Safe Ride program, which led him to see SGA as a figurehead for VSU.

“It’s (SGA) a way for the university to look like they actually take into consideration the voices of the students,” David said.

David made sure to say that this isn’t to say that SGA can’t be useful, because it can. He admits that SGA did great with the Blazer Allocation Fund and giving money back to students, but even so, not enough members truly care.

He’s not wrong though. I’ve covered many SGA meetings over the past year and sure, the number of senators has grown, but what does that matter if they don’t show up to every meeting?

SGA did a good job in their presence on campus this year in comparison to previous years, but it is  nowhere near where it could  be as a force for change.

Take for instance junior chemistry major Jamia Sanders, who only hears about SGA through her roommate, an SGA senator.

“I can’t really tell because, even though she’s (her roommate) an SGA senator, I don’t know much about what they (SGA) are doing other than the parking,” Sanders said.

Sanders is an example of benign-neglect, a term learned in Dr. James LaPlant’s conspiracy theory class here at VSU. It means that the government did not intentionally leave something out, but the fact that it happened is still neglectful.

An analogy would be like a child who follows a parent on a walking path. The parent knows that there’s a spot in the road where they could trip but doesn’t tell the child because they don’t think about it. Then, when the child trips, the parent apologizes for the fact that they didn’t think about it.

Benign-neglect is what happens when a government doesn’t care enough.  If SGA really cares about the student body, then we’ll see a change for the better next year.

Lewis said that next year she hopes to see students join SGA to better the campus rather than for personal reasons and I agree.

Overall, SGA has done an “ok” job, but I hope to see SGA do more than just an “ok” job.

This editorial was written by a member of the editorial staff and expresses the general opinion of The Spectator.

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