Frustrations with the Student Government

“Student Government” seems like an oxymoron. I’ve often wondered just what exactly it is the Student Government Association (SGA) intends to do. They get elected, talk with each other in their own circuits for the rest of the year and occasionally propose some minor, inconsequential change that the administration considers and accepts or denies to no real consequence, like additional vegetarian options in Frank or the inclusion of a second set of laundry machines in older residence halls. But how often does a “student government,” here or at nearly any university, actually do anything? How often is a student government courageous enough to actually organize students, to use their positions to fight for student rights and justice or to actually defend their so-called constituents? How long have “student governments” been content to passively sit by watching wealth concentrate at elite universities, applaud tokenistic initiatives while staying quiet on legacy admissions and stacked scholarships, and cater to the notion that inflated GPAs validate a so-called meritocracy? In fact, the only thing most student governments ever seem to act passionately about is in getting angry and aggressive when they are accused of being impotent.

Let’s not beat around the bush: our Student Government is a joke. Despite official structure, a nice-looking website and catchy campaign slogans that give off the appearance of being professionally run, it’s still fundamentally treated like a high-school club where most people run just to put something on their resume. In my time at Colgate and to all indications before it, I have never once seen the SGA meaningfully affect or even rally toward any sort of serious change or issue on campus, and it sure as hell hasn’t been for lack of issues. Their “accomplishments” page lists having adopted the free speech guidelines by the Task Force on Academic Freedom earlier this year and writing letters of appreciation to Colgate faculty as their most important achievements for the 2018- 2019 school year, amidst college admissions scandals, multiple directly anti-student decisions by Administration (Pep band?) and open town halls with national politicians. It’s great that you’re working on making rideshare spreadsheets, SGA. Really. But there are a hell of a lot more important things you need to be fighting for.

The handling of the recent SGA election, if you haven’t guessed already, was the prompt for this piece.

It was handled in one of the most buffoonish and incompetent ways imaginable, with multiple pieces of misinformation going out to the student body and a “result” where closed-circuit SGA bodies placed an unvoted president and vice president of the assembly, directly against the ballots they received. Incidents like this are why people make jokes in The Monthly Rag that SGA is just a training ground for the actual senate, but they’re not the real problem with the assembly—the real problem is that SGA has dozens of bills on the table for Dr. Seuss Day, adding more flags to Frank and a single bill dedicated to politely and quietly asking the Administration if we could maybe pretty please see our own admission records.

I hurt you because I love you, SGA. I want nothing more than to see the Colgate Student Government Association become the serious and powerful voice for student advocacy they should be, and it pains me intensely to call them a joke, but they are. Get your s— together and start acting like the government officials you claim to be.

Contact Max Goldenberg at [email protected].