According to its constitution, the Student Government Association (SGA) was founded upon “the importance of strengthening student unity, representing student interests and providing a forum for the exchange of ideas.” Unfortunately, we’re not sure these lofty ideals are being met.
We notice SGA making efforts to plan and improve events now that we’re fully back on campus, such as the Instagram Raffle Bill and the Well-Being Fair Funding Bill. But there should be a balance between organizing leisure-based activities and addressing important issues on campus.
We are disappointed that SGA has yet to comment on the University’s resumed implementation of the Johns Hopkins Police Department (JHPD), despite recent town halls and protests attended by students. We know SGA is capable of addressing the contentious issue. In 2019, SGA passed a resolution opposing the University’s bill to create the JHPD, and in 2020, it signed a petition calling for a permanent end to the formation of the private police force.
But two years have passed, and as far we know, SGA has stayed silent. If SGA has been raising concerns about the JHPD to administration, the student body hasn’t been made aware.
We have the right to know about the projects and initiatives of our elected officials. Unfortunately, the current SGA has shown a lackluster effort in promoting transparency in all areas of the organization.
Multiple aspects of SGA’s website are not up-to-date.
All of the meeting minutes since April 26 have been duplicates of the same document, which still lists students who no longer hold office, and there aren’t any notes or records of what was discussed. Information on how to start a campus-wide referendum or recall election for an elected member of SGA is outdated — as of publication, the document still makes references to the completely online modality of fall 2020.
The featured initiatives page on SGA’s website states that SGA is “working with Dean of Academic and Student Services Andy Wilson on resolving issues with retrievals of packed belongings and planning for greater demand once students return to campus.” However, as of April 2022, Andy Wilson no longer works at Hopkins. And we suspect this initiative dates back to fall 2020, when students were finally able to pick up the items they had left in their dorms at the start of the pandemic.
Clearly, SGA needs to address this blatant lack of transparency. For an organization that has “student” in the name, SGA is notably disconnected from the student body.
The SGA Constitution lists objectives such as “strengthening student unity” and “representing student interests.” Needless to say, we think SGA could be doing a better job.
The lack of participation among the student body is telling. In a recent election to fill a vacant senior class senator position, only 92 members of the Class of 2023 voted. But this low voter turnout wasn’t surprising — last spring, only 426 votes were cast for executive board elections.
What’s more, when students do decide to vote, they don’t have many options to choose from. Last year, three out of four executive board races were uncontested. Students, understandably, are less inclined to participate when they think it won’t make a difference.
We know SGA can’t force anyone to vote or run for office. But the group should be doing more throughout the year to increase student interest and engagement.
A key way that other student organizations keep the public informed is through social media. SGA lists two platforms on its website, Facebook and Instagram. We couldn’t find the Facebook page — as of publication, the username listed results in an error message. Meanwhile, the Rules Bill dictates that the executive board update Facebook monthly. And though the SGA Instagram account is active via Stories, there hasn’t been a new post on its feed since April.
While running for the executive board, candidates stressed the importance of improving communication and increasing community engagement. It’s been over six months since these students were elected. It’s unclear what tangible actions they have taken — or if there have been any at all — to effect the changes they based their campaigns on. The student body deserves more than empty promises.
All that being said, we recognize that SGA can only address the concerns brought to its attention. SGA has failed students, but students have failed to apply pressure. If you’d like to see changes within SGA, or Hopkins in general, let your elected officials know what you think. Meet SGA on Keyser Quad tomorrow. Become a class senator. Make SGA more than just a line on someone’s resume.