A lengthy tenure as an official of the Student Association is not a common phenomenon. Last week SA President David Burt fired Dining Services Commission Director Christian Berle last week, and SA Vice President for Public Affairs Liz Cox quit over frustrations with internal nit-picking. With this latest round of SA departures, students must question the effectiveness and purpose of the organization.
While there are many dedicated people in the SA, too often students perceive the SA as an organization experiencing constant turmoil. Students express frustration with battles over funding for student organizations, conspicuous bickering within the SA Senate and constant disputes between legislators and the executive branch. It appears the SA is too caught up in its own internal drama to tend to the concerns of students.
The most important concern regarding this year’s SA is that – after beginning the year with great promise – it not repeat last year’s debacle. The SA impeachment fight last year distracted the organization for weeks from its advertised mission of students helping students. After the mid-year transition between administrations, the SA understandably took a considerable amount of time to regain its direction. Before that new administration took over, the organization became largely irrelevant, as its student officials grew more and more distracted by the impeachment circus.
If this year’s SA hopes to avoid a similar situation, the group cannot continue to compromise its credibility and drain away its legitimacy through the bad politics that seem to compel officials to leave before their tenures are completed.
The SA has to work to avoid becoming a breeding ground for future Washington politicians intent on focusing their attention on internal squabbles rather than the concerns of students. At the same time, senators and cabinet members must work to avoid burnout and fatigue. High turnover, whether through resignations, firings or impeachment, does nothing to help solve the problems and resolve the issues students face. Instead, such conditions only serve to diminish students’ confidence in officials elected for the express purpose of listening to their concerns.