Column: Students are not fairly represented by SGA in charity voting process

By Nate Discavage  @DiscavageSavage

Photo retrieved from SBU Student Government Association Facebook page

“We, the students of St. Bonaventure University, in order to provide an officially recognized student organization that identifies and represents student interests…”

That is the opening line to the Student Government Association’s (SGA) constitution.  Recently, it has been harder and harder for St. Bonaventure students to feel like they are being fairly represented by their student-leaders.

On Nov. 24, SGA voted for Embrace it Africa to replace March of Dimes as the official charity of St. Bonaventure for the 2016-2017 academic year.  While there are no issues with the selection of Embrace it Africa, the voting process should definitely be called into question.

The my.sbu poll used by SGA to gauge student interest showed an overwhelming interest in Bald for Bucks with 91 of the 188 students voting in favor of the charity; whereas, Embrace it Africa was third on the ballot after only receiving 29 votes — over 35 percent less

When the final ballot was cast by the SGA Senate, Embrace it Africa took home 12 of the 23 votes, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals finished with 6 votes and Bald for Bucks received a mere five votes.

To put it in simpler terms, over 50 percent of SGA voted for a charity that less than 20 percent of the student body was interested in; less than 25 percent of voters selected the charity that 48 percent of the students wanted.  How is this representing student interests?

A preliminary poll taken by SGA to gauge student interest in each charity. Retrieved from SBU Student Government Association Facebook page

While this may seem odd at first, there are two factors that made this vote far different from the rest.  Seven of the 23 voters were proxy stand-in voters and one senator received two votes.

I understand that not every representative can make each meeting; however, the fact that over 30 percent of class officers, at-large senators and Big 5 (The Bona Venture, WSBU the Buzz, Campus Activities Board, Intramurals and MERT) representatives were not in attendance is pretty alarming considering the gravity of the selection.  Although each voter was given a packet detailing all three charities along with student responses, it seemed like many of them simply pulled out their phones or talked to the person next to them when given a five-minute period to review the material.

Through a loophole, Madeleine Faircloth was able to vote twice: once as the Class of 2017 Secretary and once as the Campus Activities Board (CAB) representative.  This is a violation of Article XV, Section 2, of the SGA Constitution that states “each member of the voting membership of the SGA shall have one (1) vote.”  It also violates Article VI, Section 4, which states that one person cannot hold two spots in the Senate.

How did Embrace it Africa crush the two favorites like it did?

While I would hope each voter was fully informed on the pros and cons of each charity, the fact that Embrace it Africa won by such a vast margin fails to represent student interest.

Keep in mind that I am not criticizing the charity selected—Embrace it Africa offers many opportunities to those in need and was even started by St. Bonaventure alumni—I am criticizing the voting process.

With SGA announcing that they will be contemplating constitutional amendments in the near future, I urge them to overhaul a voting process that allows senators to vote multiple times and such an overwhelming number of proxies to be present.  Until the system is overturned we, the students of St. Bonaventure, can never be fairly represented in our own government.

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