Keep Special Interests in SGA at Bay
April 7, 2011 Leave a comment
by Daniel Cooper
A special-interest group, or more loosely, an interest group, is an organization that works to pressure a political body to encourage or prevent change in certain areas. We hear all about them from members of Congress who claim to be “above the influence” of special interests and therefore impartial on the issues they represent.
As a member of Transy’s Student Government Association for more than three years, I can tell you that these groups are present in all levels of governance. My experience in SGA has been tacked with several special elections to replace senators who, for various reasons, became ineligible or unwilling to participate in student government.
Standard procedure for filling a senate seat requires interested students to speak as to why they’re interested in student government and what they think they can bring to the table. And inevitably, by the end of each student’s speech you have not only become aware of everything that he or she has done at Transy (although nothing that the student will or wants to do as a senator), but you’ve been enlightened as to his or her Greek affiliation.
Now, I want to be clear. And in effort of full disclosure I will state that I personally am not affiliated with a Greek organization, nor do I have any ill feelings or wishes against Greek organizations. I think that, when done appropriately (as a vast majority of Transy’s Greek organizations do), they create a fostering environment for the growth of the men and women involved, but it’s simply not my cup of tea.
However, as a senator, I have sat through countless speeches that centered on the fact that a certain individual was a member of a certain Greek organization and that he or she “could bring a voice to SGA that was underrepresented” by proxy of that Greek affiliation.
This is not only flawed, but irrelevant. Greek affiliation on a college campus is equitable to special-interest groups in higher-level politics. So I ask you, how often do you hear candidates for Senate saying, “You should vote for me because I represent a small niche of the people I’ll be representing”?
I have no problem with special-interest groups. I think they are just as entitled as the rest of us to organize and petition the government for whatever it is they desire from it. However, I also think it prudent for candidates not to advertise the fact that there are organizations that influence their decisions.
Greek individuals should by no means be prevented from serving on student government. Anyone willing to put time and effort into making our school a better place should be given ample opportunity to do so.
I do feel that it is sensible, however, to ask our student government to make more of an effort at impartiality by requiring its members to remain neutral while on student government business. And although it will be nearly impossible on a campus like ours not to know if someone is or is not Greek, we should at least have a bit of neutrality during parliamentary discussions regarding issues pertinent to the entire campus.