Flames of the Torch

The current executive board of Student Government, Inc. displayed their unwavering inclination towards esoteric politics on Monday night as they voted on newly proposed student organizations. After the S.G.I. assembly listened to and questioned eight student groups who were seeking official recognition, president Patrick Brewer asked all non-S.G.I. students, including TORCH staffers, to leave the room while the floor conducted their votes.

This marks the first S.G.I. voting session of the year where students and media were not permitted, and is atypical of a democratic assembly.

When asked by TORCH reporters why they were being asked to leave the room, Brewer had this to say: “We need to keep the dialogue here because we are weighing the groups’ merit against one another. We need to be able to discuss openly before we ?can choose who to approve.”

With all due respect to Mr. Brewer, this is not the kind of legislative ?procedure we can endorse.

When asked if the private voting was to protect derogatory statements by S.G.I. members, Brewer said, “No, we’re not putting the organizations down, but we want to be able to speak and say what we thought of their presentations and ideas privately.”

This obscuring of S.G.I. floor proceedings contradicts the virtues of transparency that Brewer himself campaigned behind with the P.A.R.T.Y. ticket last spring. To recall a piece of the P.A.R.T.Y. ticket’s official platform, student government should work to end “the tradition of disconnect between student and their government.”

Surely there is no quicker way to achieve a  disconnect between students and student government than by removing students from vital discussions that affect them and? their student activity fees.

Naturally, there are times when private deliberation is appropriate amongst government. Party caucuses, budgetary talk and personnel dialogues that take place outside of public domain are no doubt a part of politics. Legislative proceedings, however, do not merit this same element of executive secrecy.

In democratic government, public access to legislative voting and floor proceedings is essential. C-SPAN, CPAC and BBC Parliament are examples of this transparency in the U.S., Canada and Britain, respectively. It would be extremely convenient and comfortable for members of these democratic governments to conduct legislative votes privately, however, this is atypical to democratic governance. To abolish the visibility afforded by C-SPAN would be to deny ?Americans a constitutional right.

While Brewer and his board of executive members do a great job of discussing the importance of student engagement and S.G.I. transparency, we find it extremely discouraging to see students excluded from discussion at public meetings.

Private discussions are one thing, and bi-weekly floor meetings are another. Floor meetings are held to listen to and inform and engage the student body – not isolate them from dialogue deemed private by the elite few who hold offices in D’Angelo.

 We urge the executive board of S.G.I. to seriously contemplate the manner in which they are conducting themselves in office. Their actions at Monday’s floor meeting and handling of the organizations approval is not only uncharacteristic of fair government, but a serious disservice to the students who fund their stipends. We also implore the 40 representatives of S.G.I. to influence the actions of their S.G.I. executive board members. It is our hope that S.G.I. will soon alter their recent failures, and act in a more student-oriented fashion.