Ethics code will strengthen Student GovernmentBy Ryan Flamerich | 01/25/2012 11:10pm
The Student Government Association Senate will vote tonight on the most important legislation to come before it this year – a bill establishing an ethics code for the entire SGA. This bill was crafted by a large number of SGA officials through a series of meetings open to SGA members and the public, incorporating concerns and ideas that were expressed into policies that will make our SGA stronger and more accountable.
First, the bill allows SGA senators to impose a greater level of accountability on their peers. If senators miss more than four meetings without providing justification for their absence or sending a proxy in their place, they will be subject to removal from office pending an appeals process. The same rules will apply to senators who fail to perform their office hours or communicate with their assigned student organizations. This legislation will give the SGA the authority, for the first time, to actually enforce its own rules by imposing tough, enforceable consequences on SGA officials who violate the code of laws.
All of us privileged to hold SGA office were elected to represent students. If we fail to live up to that basic responsibility, there are many students who can take our place. These provisions are designed to encourage senators to meet their obligations.
Secondly, the bill will allow the executive branch to suspend the salaries of paid members if they fail to meet their duties and codifies the power of the SGA president and vice presidents to replace officials who repeatedly neglect their offices.
Thirdly, the bill establishes the SGA’s first nondiscrimination policy, codifying our commitment to guarantee “equal opportunity in participation for all qualified persons regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, disability or veteran status” and comply with federal civil rights laws.
Finally, the bill reiterates our commitment to transparency by modernizing our open meetings laws so that students and the press can continue to attend meetings during which SGA business is conducted.
I am confident that these measures, combined with an empowered SGA Senate Ethics Committee and SGA Attorney General capable of executing their enforcement, will result in not only higher standards of conduct, but more openness and diversity – that is why I fully support this legislation and am proud of the work my colleagues have invested in it. This is a true turning point for the SGA, and an opportunity for student leaders across campus to come together and renew the integrity of our governing institutions.
Hopefully, we will never again find ourselves blindsided by ethical controversies and investigations because we now have a clear, definitive policy for addressing the conduct of SGA officeholders.
However, we will not be able to reach our true potential without the help and participation of the student body. It is important that students not only voice their support for this code of ethics, but hold us accountable for living up to the standards we have set after they are enacted.
Together, we can chart a new future where an SGA of restored integrity can become more effective than ever before in representing our rapidly growing and changing student body. Changing the way we do business and holding SGA members to the same standards members of many other student organizations are held is only the first step in creating a student government that is more beneficial to us all.
Ryan Flamerich is the Speaker of the SGA Senate.