SGA elections are unconstitutional

SGA elections are unconstitutional

Nick Reimann

For the second time in four years, Loyola’s Student Government Association is attempting to reduce the amount of seats in the SGA Senate without constitutional authority.

Students will be allowed to run for the positions of president, vice president, senator at-large and senator by college, but there is no option to run for the position of college president. The SGA by-laws describe the role of the college president to be a sitting member of the SGA Senate that “represent the interests, voices and needs of the students within their college to their respective dean.”

Maria Calzada, who has served as dean of the College of Humanities and Natural Sciences since 2013, and served as the college’s interim dean from 2011 to 2013, said she has never had any interaction with an SGA college president.

“I learned about the position this week from the Maroon,” Calzada said.

She also said she is not aware of any students that are interested in taking the position.

The position of college president is explicitly stated as part of the SGA Senate in Article 6, Section 6.02, Subsection III of the SGA Constitution, which states that there will be representation in the Senate by “one (1) College President from each of the colleges within Loyola University New Orleans excluding the College of Law.”

There is currently a constitutional amendment on the ballot that, if passed by Loyola’s student body, would eliminate the college president position. But in the meantime, the position still constitutionally exists, and students cannot run for it.

This isn’t the first time that SGA has attempted to eliminate seats without the approval of the student body.

In 2013, SGA attempted to cut the number of representatives by more than half by drafting a new constitution during a closed-door meeting. They also did not include several constitutionally granted positions on the ballot that year, including college presidents. After the ensuing controversy, many of the proposed constitutional changes failed to pass the student body, saving the college president position for the time.

Bud Sheppard, current SGA Chief Justice who approved this year’s election code, believes that leaving the position off of this year’s ballot is a way of eliminating a role that is seen as unnecessary.

“It was just one position for each college in the Senate,” Sheppard said. “The president’s duty was to meet with that college’s dean and also, I guess, do the SGA senator job as well. It was just like a title, it wasn’t anything big. It’s not like the senators can’t just reach out to the deans as well, and so it just sort of seemed like extra blow to the system that wasn’t really needed.”

Allison Rogers, former SGA director of communication and 2015 SGA presidential candidate, agreed that the college president position wasn’t being utilized very well. But she believes that this is due to serious institutional dysfunction within the SGA.

“Eliminating the college president position is only treating the symptoms, not the root cause,” Rogers said. “The real solution to the problems in senate would be to address the actual problem: student apathy. Why don’t students want to run for senate and why can’t we seem to fill all of the positions? It’s not that we have a student body full of unmotivated and unconcerned students — we routinely see students expressing their concerns outside of SGA whether it be through a petition to replace Father Wildes or a Facebook group to discuss unstable Wi-Fi. The issue, then, seems to be that students do not see SGA as the body that will address their concerns. And why would they? SGA does not pass initiatives that address common complaints on campus, SGA does not routinely meet with administrators to discuss upper level concerns and SGA does not seem to play an active role in even the lives of those who are members of the organization; a ten-minute senate meeting every week doesn’t count.”

Along with the four college president positions, the SGA Senate is also composed of senators at-large, elected by the entire student body, and senators by college, who are only voted on by students in their respective college.

Article 6, Section 6.2, Subsection II of the SGA Constitution defines representation by senators at-large as being “proportional to one (1) senator-at-large, rounded to the nearest whole number, per eight hundred (800) students of the total spring enrollment of the university, excluding students enrolled in the College of Law,” and it defines representation from senators by college as being “proportional to one (1) Senator, rounded to the nearest whole number, per two hundred (200) students of the total spring enrollment in that college.”

Using enrollment data obtained from Loyola’s Office of Institutional Research, there should be three senators at-large representing the entire student body, as well as five senators from the College of Humanities and Natural Sciences, three senators from the College of Music and Fine Arts and two senators each from the College of Social Sciences and College of Business. With four college president positions also on the SGA Senate, this means there are 19 seats available. Nine students currently sit on SGA Senate.

Sheppard, who has been a part of SGA since he was a freshman, said he has noticed this decline in senate participation during his time there.

“When I was here as a first-year, the legislative branch was a lot more robust,” Sheppard said. “We’ve sort of seen the legislative branch kind of have a decrease in numbers. We’re not really sure why. We’re trying to figure that out.”

Rogers believes that the reason for this decline is because SGA is viewed as inept by the student body.

“The student body does not trust SGA as the body that will advocate for their interests,” Rogers said. “Where was the SGA advocacy and request for student input as Loyola was creating its new version of the common curriculum? Where was SGA when students began calling for the replacement of Father Wildes? Where was SGA’s partnership with BSU when they were developing their concerns to present to the administration?

Kaylen Lee, current senator at-large, feels that it’s time for students to come forward and take positions on the SGA Senate.

“It’s just all about the students coming forth and wanting to actually do the work,” Lee said. “We’re always looking for new senators. It’s just about students having good faith that want to step up and help out their student body.”

Rogers feels that there is a simple solution to reviving the SGA Senate.

“Bottom line: rather than eliminating positions and generalizing roles within the Senate, SGA needs to become the advocating body that it is structured to be.”