City on a Hill Press is tired of covering the Student Union Assembly’s mistakes.
Over the years, SUA has mismanaged funds and miscommunicated with other student organizations. Officers have left promises unfulfilled and it isn’t clear who representatives are really serving at the end of the day.
For the first time, the SUA is trying to make amends at a fundamental level. That change should come in the form of an amendment to the constitution. This requires enough students to turn out during campus elections and vote in favor of stronger transparency and accountability for some of the campus’s most powerful students.
Stephan Edgar, third-year and College Nine SUA representative, wrote an amendment that would enact 162 individual changes to the constitution in hopes of preventing the recurring problems.
This is a change even SUA wants.
SUA unanimously approved placing the amendment on the campus elections ballot. Twenty percent of the undergraduate student body must vote in elections for the amendment to be considered. In addition to the election meeting quorum, the amendment must receive a simple majority to pass.
This number may seem small, but past campus elections scarcely meet that turnout. Only 23.5 percent of undergraduate students participated in the 2018 campus elections. Students must take advantage of local democracy and act to improve the government that should be representing them.
The amendment aims to create a judicial council, improve relations with student organizations, ensure more transparency within the SUA and clarify ambiguous language and close loopholes. While follow-through hasn’t been SUA’s strong suit, it makes sense to vote for this in hopes it makes real change.
While an amendment to the constitution is not an end-all, be-all solution for SUA, it is an important step in the right direction. Every year, SUA officers say they want to do better. This is the way they can actually do so.
SUA’s roots in unaccountability and disconnect from students began in 2013. SUA Chair Shaz Umer radically changed the Assembly when he transitioned it from the advising of Student Organization Advising and Resources (SOAR) to the Dean of Students (DOS) Office. This created a rift between SUA and student organizers that has since grown into a large divide.
The same academic year SUA transitioned to the DOS office, it also spent $200,000 on its largest concert, “Edge of Eden.” SUA didn’t sell enough tickets — which were $55 each — and came up $37,000 short, a debt it’s only recently recovered from.
Moving SUA from SOAR’s jurisdiction to the DOS brought it closer to administrators and resources, but further from student interests.
This disconnect from the students caused SUA to lose sight of its purpose — serving students. It also played a key role in the mistakes that riddle SUA’s legacy.
SUA’s financial mistakes aren’t just a thing of the past.
The Big Five ethnic organizations were outraged last fall when SUA allocated almost $49,000 to its Sage the Gemini concert, $30,000 of which came from its general programming fund without approval from student representatives. This left only $17,000 in the fund for them to use for the remainder of the year to support student-initiated outreach programs.
This lack of transparency between SUA and the Big Five emphasizes the ambiguity that plagues student government at UCSC. The constitutional amendment could serve as a cure.
The amendment improves accessibility to the language of the constitution, creates a check and balance system for when a discrepancy occurs and improves relations with other student organizations by formally recognizing them as allies. This will prevent the secrecy that has engulfed SUA while also encouraging collaboration with other organizations.
SUA can no longer just be a resume builder, it’s time for officers to represent the student body and actually serve students.
The Assembly is finally making an effort to rectify its multitude of mistakes and the student body must support it in those efforts. While this amendment may not solve the mistakes SUA has made, it would be a step toward democratic representation for the undergraduate student body.
The students have endured the consequences of SUA’s mistakes for too long. It’s time to step up and change the system.
Students are given the opportunity to vote in campus elections for a reason. Use your voice and vote “yes” on SUA’s constitutional amendment