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Op-Ed: SGA, Come Back with My Wallet

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

Elections are today and tomorrow. Vote here.

(Editor’s Note: This is an op-ed by a guest writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Skidmore Unofficial or any of us who officially write for the site. One would think this would be pretty obvious, but we wanted to avoid any confusion or mislaid anger.)

Joshua Nelson, the Director of Student Activities, once told me that our SGA is one of the most independent and powerful student governments in the country. But what does SGA do? No, really, what does it do? Well, it keeps clubs waiting for exorbitant amounts of time to speak to Senate; it tells clubs how much money they can have; it plans major college events; it hosts uncontested elections; and, finally, it tells us to vote in these uncontested elections.

If we were to do an approval poll of SGA, we may see it end up with a higher approval rating than Congress, but only because no one knows what it is they should disapprove of. Well, it’s time to change that.

So what does SGA do? It spends our money—lots of our money. It spends more money than the gross domestic product of Tuvalu. Look it up.

That might be a little bit of a stretch, but, to put its budget in perspective, SGA could pay for you to go to four years of college at Skidmore and still have some money left over at the end of the year. What’s more, SGA had access to $150,000 that went untouched for years. SGA finally tapped into this money last year to fund, of all things, renovations to Falstaff’s. And where did this money come from you ask? Your tuition. Did you know that?

The fact that SGA has access to large sums of money is not a bad thing. If anything, it’s good—most student governments lack the capacity to fund student endeavors in the way ours can.

So why am I so caught up on this? Well for one thing, the reason I have to make these ridiculous comparisons about money is because SGA doesn’t publish how much money it has or what it spends that money on (at least not in any obvious spot). But we shouldn’t have to look—SGA should tell us. (Imagine if the U.S. Congress passed a budget but didn’t let anyone know what it was spent on!) We should get communications from Addison about what the budget is spent on, what initiatives SGA is passing, and how we can get involved.

In the late sixties and seventies (according to ancient Skidmore folklore), the student body revolted and campaigned hard enough against the administration that SGA—with its massive budget, its extensive constitution, and its remarkable independence from the administration—was created. As members of this community it is our obligation to live up to what our foremothers did for us.

Elections need to be contested. This first has to be done by SGA’s website actually explaining what positions do. (Similarly, Addison’s email with explanations did not seem to help too much either. I overheard some freshmen the other day saying how they were running for SGA but that they didn’t have a platform since they couldn’t figure out what people in the position did. Go onto Skids Scribner’s Facebook page and look at the campaign videos, they say nothing). SGA also needs to reduce the amount of the positions. It is more important to have every race for Senate, VP, and President contested than for everyone to get a position. (If there are fewer positions, hopefully people will actually have to run for them!) Even in contested elections, like for President, there’s not much contest when you look at the votes. Addison Bennett and Sam Harris are reminiscent of Medvedev and Putin during the short time Medvedev ruled Russia. It is like the position was simply handed down to the former president’s protégé.

However, the goal of this article is not to hate on Sam, Addison, or anyone in SGA. Most of them (especially the two named above) work hard and give up a lot of time to be on SGA, but we as a student body need to get involved and SGA needs to change in order to help us get involved. It needs to address real issues and fix them in real ways; it needs to run on meaningful platforms; and it needs to give us a voice with which to actually work with the administration. For our part, we need to use that voice once it is given.

Our SGA can be one of the best in the country; let’s make that happen.

– Thaddeus Kosciuszko