Elections for the Executive Board of the Student Government Organization came to a close at midnight last night. While the results of the election are yet unknown, this election was unique in that it also offered students a chance to ratify SGO’s new constitution. One third of the student body needs to vote in favor of the new of constitution in order for it to be ratified. The major change to the constitution is an alteration of the structure of the student senate in order to allow for more senators, representing more diverse groups on campus, to participate in SGO. While we at the Phoenix commend the new constitution for its endeavor to better represent the diverse interests of the student body, we also feel that the new constitution is lacking in that the newly structured student senate does not include representatives from certain key groups on campus and because the new constitution is incredibly ambiguous in regards to the specific powers and duties of SGO.
Instead of 10 senators, the student senate will now have 22 senators made up of 16 elected senators and 6 representative senators. The representative senators will be designated by their respective affinity groups with two senators from the Intercultural Center, one senator from the Black Cultural Center, one senator from the Interfaith community, one senator from the Greek community, and one senator from the Student Athlete Advisory Committee.
We at the Phoenix believe that the addition of these representative senators is an important means of giving a voice to the various affinity groups on campus that might not otherwise be present in SGO. Nevertheless, we feel that the allocation of the representatives to the various affinity groups is somewhat arbitrary. Specifically, there are no representatives included from the Women’s Resource Center, and though there are two representatives from the IC, the IC is such a diverse organization that two representatives are not enough. For example, the interests of a group like i20 or the Swarthmore Queer Union are very distinct from the interests of a group like Enlace or the Swarthmore Asian Organization. Each of these affinity groups represents large populations of students on campus, and the absence of any senators representing the distinct interests of these groups in SGO appears to perpetuate the problem of representational inequity that was the source of the initial constitution change.
Nevertheless, it is unclear how much this dearth of representation for these affinity groups will negatively affect the experiences of their members at Swarthmore insofar as the actual power and responsibility of SGO is largely absent in the new constitution. The constitution is incredibly vague in explaining the duties of the SGO stating only, “SGO’s principle duties include the allocation of the Student Activities Budget, management of the group chartering process, appointment of students to Swarthmore College committees, and meeting with Swarthmore College faculty, staff, and the Board of Managers. Additionally, the SGO will encourage campus-wide discussions and engagement and actively solicit student opinion.”
While the allocation of the SAB is clearly a very serious task, the constitution never explains the procedures of, or criteria for, the allocation. Additionally, which senators are involved in the allocation remains unmentioned as well. The rest of the stated duties of SGO appear incredibly vague. In particular, meeting with members of the community and encouraging campus-wide discussions indicate very little about SGO’s actual power or the tasks that SGO performs. Ultimately, while we at the Phoenix appreciate SGO’s efforts to build a more diverse and fairly representative student senate in their new constitution, we feel that more affinity groups should be accounted for in this representative senate and that SGO’s new constitution should better explain the power and responsibilities of the organization.