Controversial SGI Election Process Needs to Change

Nitin Basra, Contributing Writer

Imagine having the ability to vote in the United States presidential election at the ease of your fingertips. The amount of engagement would certainly increase but what else would we have to take into account?

   For better or worse, St. John’s University has implemented this technique, allowing their students to vote for their future Executive Board of Student Government Inc. (SGI) on their mobile devices.

At St. John’s, students also have the option of voting at table set-ups using laptops. However, what has intrigued many is the online process of this past election. This year’s election ended April 5, and it has had its share of controversies. While no rumors have been confirmed by SGI or the Elections Committee, talk of cheating can lead to students losing trust in the voting process.

The Elections Committee led by co-chairs Michael Pugh and Carley Germain, have a defined purpose within the Student Government Inc. Constitution: “Coordinated under the supervision of the Division of Student Affairs, this committee organizes and facilitates all SGI elections,” according to Article VI Section C, of the SGI Constitution.

This particular committee just has one responsibility, and could be executing it in a better way. Since the Elections Committee is under the Student Affairs Committee, the role of this certain committee as stated in the SGI Constitution is the following: “This committee is responsible for the coordination and execution of all marquee events, as well as developing and facilitating new programming which promotes the St. John’s University Mission.”

The mission of St. John’s and the Vincentians is certainly not to take a risky approach to such an important election — especially at the expense of  the supervision of a substantial amount of money.

Having a student run election is the main issue. Conflicts of interest arise everywhere and the chance of the election to be a fair process is heavily at risk. This past election, Christopher Stephens, the vice president of SGI and Pugh were both “in charge.” Both oversaw the various responsibilities given to them: Administering constitution exams, handing out sanctions when appropriate. But how can we have students in charge of administering an election that allows fellow students to control such a large budget?

The incoming executive board, moreso the newly elected treasurer and president, work together with organizations already on campus to form new budgets for the upcoming year. The budget will be tight and the individuals that are chosen cannot be verified to be qualified for their job, and that can cripple some organizations.

Many, if not all organizations rely on funds and we must remember the main function of SGI in the first place, to “Represent, advocate for, act on behalf of, and serve the student body of St. John’s University at the Queens Campus, and the interests thereof.” This election should have been supervised by individuals outside of the organization that do not pose as a conflict of interest. It is not fair to the innocent students that wanted to have their voice heard in this election.

These issues are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the things that need to be fixed for SGI. The unfair use of technology should be resolved as soon as possible. Alternatives for election day should already be thought of because of how necessary it is to protect the students.

Students should not be allowed to vote on their phones or by using their emails because of how delicate and easily abused the current system has the potential to be.

Just like how the United States presidential election is conducted at neutral locations headed by individuals that do not influence the outcome of the election, SJU SGI elections need to follow the same suit.

Taffner Field House is a viable location to conduct this election because the need to swipe your StormCard to gain access to the building allows for higher security. Then students will fill out digital ballots on computer screens and they can access these ballots by again swiping their StormCards.

Students that are a part of SGI should not be present at this location except when they cast their ballot. It would prove to be a vital step to protect the students of St. John’s University. The current system is broken and must be fixed as soon as possible.