Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Failed publicity of the SGA

By Alex Perry

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Where should one start fixing the SGA? What is the SGA again?

Can you name a single thing the Student Government Association is responsible for doing in the past year?

I have been at the University of Massachusetts for nearly four years now. I lived in Southwest for two years and have lived off campus for the past year. I consider myself politically aware, but, until about this time last year, I never even knew what the SGA did. How did I find out? I had to embarrassingly ask my peers during a Republican Club meeting what they were talking about when the SGA came up in discussion.

I am not close to being in the minority – most students don’t seem to know what they are doing either. At this point, you too are probably reading this wondering, “What does the SGA do?” The campus is rampant with this ignorance towards the SGA’s existence and its responsibilities – but frankly that doesn’t bother me.

What annoys me is how poorly the SGA is run and how stupid most of these SGA issues I read about are. When I say poorly run, I am referring to things such as the SGA’s inability to get a respectable percentage of students out to vote. I’m referring to the fact that up until this semester, the SGA has had a whole committee – the Public Policy and Relations Committee –  devoted to, according to the SGA’s bylaws, “organize publicity campaigns and employ media outlets to inform students and the campus community of the activities of the SGA.”

How is it even possible that the purpose of a committee in the SGA is to “inform students and the campus community of the activities of the SGA,” yet still, the vast majority of students have no clue what the SGA does? From my perspective, it means one of two things. The students on this committee haven’t been able to do their job and/or students just don’t care to listen. The answer is probably a combination of both.

In fact, I sometimes wonder if members of the SGA even really care about the SGA. Look at this clip from a Collegian article written by Chris Shores on September 28: “Of the candidates running for president, vice president, secretary or treasurer of their cluster’s House Council, 17 candidates are running unopposed. There are ten positions that have at least two candidates running, including the entire Webster/Dickinson Cluster in Orchard Hill.”

Seventeen candidates are running unopposed? Are these 17 SGA members just by far the most qualified for those positions or does just no one care to bother to run against them? I’m pretty confident it’s the latter.

The fact that the SGA is weak and the vast majority of students don’t care is what really annoys me about the online voting debate that is taking place in the SGA right now. According to the referendum that was on the back of the ballots during the election this past week, the small percentage of students who did vote actually voted overwhelmingly in favor of online voting.

My response to that would be, obviously students are going to vote for online voting. No one was vindicated here. Why would students who are already voting not want online voting? It’s more convenient to vote this way than to vote in person. I think online voting should exist, but that’s not why I am annoyed with this debate going on. I’m annoyed that members of the SGA think online voting matters.

What will change at UMass if there is online voting?

Will students suddenly care about the SGA if there is online voting? The answer is, of course not.

Will there be a higher percentage of students who vote? Yeah probably, but people still will only be voting for their friends who ask them to vote.

The election process itself is the problem, not the established way for students to vote. Anyone who really feels compelled to vote can easily do so in the system that stands now. Are members of the SGA seriously thinking, “Wow, there are so many people out there who would like to vote but they simply can’t.” That notion is utter nonsense.

Look at how dumb the current voting process is. Try to think of what it would be like to vote without someone you know compelling you to vote for a certain candidate. The ballot is just a list of names. What differentiates Joe from Steve? No voter can look at a random list of names of people they have never heard of and pass judgment as to who will be a good SGA representative and who won’t be. Barely anyone even knows what the representatives will be doing anyhow. This won’t change by simply putting the voting online.

The SGA needs to get some leadership with the innovation and courage to make major changes that get all students to understand why they should care – assuming there are actually reasons students should. If the SGA is unable to accomplish this, it will continue to get low voting turnouts and minimal interest from students – with or without online voting.

There is good news for those of us who know the SGA will never get its act together though – no one will notice or care if they don’t.

Alex Perry is a Collegian columnist.  He can be reached at [email protected]

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