Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

SGA has lost its vision

Student Government elections are upon us, and for the first time in my years at UTSA I will not be voting.

I consider many members of SGA my friends, and it makes me proud of my university to know that there is a group of students who are capable of helping UTSA reach its Tier One aspirations. But what is happening within SGA is a disgrace.

Instead of working together to help the students and the university, some candidates for student government have resorted to dirty politics to win.

I have been told that one candidate in the upcoming elections has borrowed ideas from their opponent; I obviously have no way to confirm these rumors. If these allegations are fabricated, it would be a new low in dirty campaigning by SGA elections, but if they are true, is that any better at all?

Another group of candidates (some of whom did not even register for elections but are instead running a write-in campaign) appear to be supported by what I can only describe as a self-interested minority of UTSA students. And, unfortunately, when less than 5 percent of students vote in elections, a self-interested minority is more than enough to make change a reality.

Maybe this is what happens when a university moves from small school to big school status. Maybe this just means we’re on our way to being mentioned in the same breath as schools like UT and Texas A&M, where student government elections are more about politics than about policy. Maybe this will encourage more students to follow SGA elections and to make an informed decision about candidates instead of sitting idly by every spring and voting for whichever candidate their peers tell them to vote for.

The disinterest in SGA did not happen overnight. UTSA has always struggled to get more students to vote in student body elections. SGA has struggled mightily in the past few years to get their message across to the student body. And, as UTSA has grown in size, it has also become more bureaucratic, where anyone looking to make any kind of change must navigate a maze of committees and offices and red tape. This last point is especially true for students and members of SGA, where turnover rates are high and time is limited to just a few months.

Perhaps as a result of this, membership in SGA has dwindled and interest seems to be at an all-time-low. There are countless empty seats at SGA meetings where Senators should be sitting. Instead of having a voice (or being that voice themselves) thousands of students are left in the dark as pivotal decisions about their university are being made.

And, as membership in SGA has shrunk, members and officers have worked outside the limits of their position, creating new positions and appointing officers in ways that clearly violate their own constitution. I have no doubt in my mind that many of these representatives of the student body have only the best intentions in mind, but I become wary when they believe that dirty campaigning and violating their own constitution are the only ways to make change.

It has reached a breaking point, it seems, where being in SGA is nothing more than a line on a resume, an excuse to say “I worked to make change happen,” when in fact this change is increasingly rare and often inconsequential.

That’s not to say change is impossible; SGA must simply address its own shortcomings. It seems to me as if too many members are too concerned with legacy projects — a Rowdy statue, a fountain, a new Starbucks — instead of investing in membership development and student outreach. While SGA’s Executive Board and some of its other, more involved members make up a group of incredibly talented and motivated individuals, it has become increasingly apparent that younger, newer members of SGA have very few opportunities to become better leaders. This isn’t about retreats and team building — it’s about older members of SGA forging bonds with younger members and giving them personal instruction and opportunities to grow.

Additionally, there is a massive disconnect between SGA and the rest of the student body. Far too few SGA members have made themselves accessible to their classmates, to say nothing of reaching out to the rest of their constituents. An overwhelming majority of UTSA students have no idea what SGA does. Although this is partly an attitude problem on behalf of the student body, it is also the responsibility of SGA to reach out to the students instead of hoping that their message reaches them by simple word-of-mouth.

This will not solve all of SGA’s problems — a strong feeling of misogyny still exists with some members, and there have also been reports of bullying that would make my elementary school tormentors blush. But at this point it seems as if any change is a step in the right direction.

One of the few meaningful changes SGA has made this year is the drafting and passing of a new constitution. Although certain language in the constitution proved to be as divisive as the current elections, the constitution does indicate a possibility to hit the reset button and build a better foundation so that students in the future can have a voice and can change the university for the better.

But if members of SGA want to be successful in the immediate future — if they are more interested in building a Tier One university than building their own resumes — this kind of campaigning and governing needs to stop.

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