‘Students for a democratic voice’ coalition emerges before Student Government Association election
Something bubbles slowly in the University of Massachusetts Student Government Association’s (SGA) senate election this year.
Late September typically produces a lukewarm stew of mini campaigns, but the current ballot features a gang of students pooling their grievances and resources. Some 22 individuals from six residential zones will add “students for a democratic voice” to their names in a move they think will lead to more effective governance that better reflects students’ thoughts.
Commissioner of Elections Chris Faulkner said that, while the SGA does not recognize political parties in the election process, students are allowed be identified as they wish so long as their last names are included.
Charlie Felder, a candidate for senate running as a commuter, said the “democratic voice” is more of a coalition than a party. He explained his decision to join the group as a reaction to politics as usual in the SGA. He claimed the body had stopped representing the majority of student opinion some time ago. The result, he said, is an SGA that stymies political dissent and the flow of information between the senate and the students whom they represent.
Their talking points are similar to those of senators who have campaigned openly against the SGA status quo in years past. This year’s difference, Felder said, is that these voices will be louder, more plentiful and should carry more influence.
“After watching candidates lose in the past and hearing, seeing and reading up on their stories, it’s clear that they fail to have a major impact because they don’t have a network – a wide group of individuals – supporting their views,” Felder said.
Joshua Davidson, another democratic voice candidate running as a commuter, said that while the idea of political parties in a student government may seem excessive, they already exist.
He said that in any political environment, lines are drawn and circles are formed around senators with similar viewpoints.
Derek Khanna, an early organizer of the group and a commuter candidate, said the former senators were disproportionately influenced by members of the ALANA Caucus – a dynamic he said lead to a dangerous consensus that consistently failed the student interest.
SGA President Ngozi Mbawuike said she’s committed to serving with whoever is elected. Whether the coalition results in good change or bad, she said they will all have to work together.
While this loose coalition is simply working to get elected now, most interviewed candidates said there is potential for the group to carry its influence into senate deliberations. Khanna plans to apply the “democratic voice” tag to amendments and motions should he be elected.
Felder hopes the coalition will second guess how money from the Student Activities Fee is appropriated, and Khanna hopes for a boost of support for his failed push for online elections last year.
Mbawuike added that once the seats are filled, she will look at the senate as a group of senators first. Like others, she plans to wait and see how much of a role the group will play in the SGA’s future.
William McGuinness can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.