SGA and Students Out of Sync
In the latest Student Government Association (SGA) election, only approximately 22% of students participated in voting. These numbers are not an anomaly; within the past two years, only an average of 20-25% of students have voted. As a result, few students are aware of those who represent them. When 40 students were randomly surveyed to see if they could identify their class representative, only 19 students who participated in this Skidmore News poll could name their Class President. The reasons for this are many: most candidates run unopposed, and students can join SGA through unelected positions at any point. Disappointing voter turnout and the subsequent lack of basic understanding of SGA puts the meaningfulness of the roles SGA plays in question, suggesting student indifference to those who perform them. However, the Editorial Board does think SGA can make a meaningful contribution to student life. The issue lies in SGA’s lack of transparency.
There is a disconnect between SGA and students. The SGA webpage on Skidmore’s site, the primary place to search when trying to learn about the SGA, has been neglected; meeting minutes are inaccessible, there are broken links, and the list of officers does not include each class’ president, vice president, and financial officer. The roll out of Skidsync as a quasi-social media page for the Skidmore community has been ill received (at a recent SGA meeting, a member admitted to being confused by the website, to which other members laughed). Skidsync also fails to provide a full list of elected positions for each class, and the email, rather than the portal, remains the strongest form of communicating social events such as class weekends and events.
In terms of policy issues, students are left in the dark. In its October 4 meeting, SGA voted on a pilot program that would replace the fourth credit hour for select, opt-in Scribner Seminars, with intersectionality discussions surrounding social issues from gender to race. The program, developed and proposed by the club SkidAction, failed to pass a second round of voting, in part due to a lack of student participation. “I feel uncomfortable voting on something that 4 or 5 students and a few professors [made],” Orr Genish, senior senator noted on the policy. SGA has acknowledged transparency as an issue and has placed this problem on its list of priorities for this administration, yet execution has been weak.
The rift between students and SGA is also due in part to the lack of participation from students in open forums and discussions. The vicious cycle of a lack of student interest and a lack of SGA’s collaboration with students, though, is made possible by SGA communication issues. When Dorothy Parsons, Student Body President, was asked to comment on turnout, she said “the results are similar to our previous fall elections, so we were not surprised. I would say that the turnout is mostly due to having had only one position contested.” If students had a better understanding of what SGA was doing, they would be more interested in not only voting, but running to join the organization. Not only would students be better represented, elections would become more competitive, and SGA would have additional members and energy to accomplish even more.
Photo by Jacob Reiskin '17