Undergraduate Student Government Association elections are this term. They have rarely been paid much attention to, and indeed several people have said to me that they unaware we even have a student government until I brought it up. That should tell you enough about how well the institution functions. I will be seeking election as archivist (secretary) on a platform of change, and until at least Election Day (May 20 was said at the April 1 USGA meeting — but to my knowledge nowhere else), I’d like to consider the political philosophy, or lack thereof, behind student government at Drexel University.
I prefer to focus on solutions rather than criticism, but since USGA is a fairly obscure organization, I shall take this first installment to discuss the varied and bizarre ways it does not serve students.
First of all, the organization is highly secretive. Until very recently it was hard to find out when any USGA meeting was, and I attribute it to my coverage of USGA in this newspaper and pressure from several friends of mine that this is beginning to change. Beyond meetings, the records are largely secret: Even the organization’s bylaws or rules of order are not public information (per President Kevin Murray, it is not necessary for others to know them), and its constitution is available only because the Office of Campus Activities mandates an annual upload to DragonLink.
It is not merely a question of incompetence but a very willful strike against representative government that would make our City Council blush. For example, when USGA members take a vote (which is quite rare for a deliberative assembly), all non-members must leave the room so they cannot hear what the members’ opinions are. The lone exception is USGA’s staff adviser: It is surely criminal that the Drexel administration has more access to the government than the students it claims to represent.
If you run against an incumbent this year, which I encourage, you will have a hard time criticizing that person’s policies: Their voting record is not available. This brings into question the legitimacy of elections, since voters cannot make an informed choice. What’s more, I suspect that turnout among students is extraordinarily low — but I cannot prove it, since I have not been able to find vote tallies for any recent elections.
Even someone duly elected will have to overcome the challenge that USGA is dominated by its executives. Most meetings consist of the president announcing what will be done, while the others meekly report on activities without being expected to propose substantial actions of their own. Presumably, all of the executive proposals are rubber-stamped in short order.
All this is to say that our student government is not at all the legitimate representation of undergraduate students, through its prior actions and fundamental flaws in the way it is organized that encourage this misbehavior — I will write on those flaws in the following weeks. I call for the ouster of those who support its continuing mediocrity and a large-scale reform during the summer term. Make this election count.
Kim Post is the Staff Manager at The Triangle. He can be contacted at [email protected]