SGA elections lack proper transparency
Two weeks ago, the Behrend Student Government Association (SGA) announced the winners of their annual election, including the President, Vice President, Chief of Staff, and Senator positions. The election results were not highly publicized and the number of votes each candidate received has not been released to either campus media outlets or the student body. The Behrend Beacon sees this as a direct violation of our campus democracy. Every student has a right to see the support that each of the candidates received, especially when considering that they are responsible for representing the student body and are tasked with allocating money that comes from the Student Activity Fee (SAF). The President sits on the SAF board and the SGA senators choose who receives money from SGA, which comes from SAF.
The Behrend student body is at about 4,600, according to the Penn State Behrend website. Students, faculty, and staff have a right to know how many students of the total student body are participating in the Behrend democratic process. Section 9.18 of the constitution says that, A minimum of fifty (50) votes is needed to be elected to any SGA office, meaning that everyone who was elected received at least that many. Using the student population of 4,600, 50 votes account for approximately one percent of the student population. Without the release of an official vote count, it cannot be said whether or not any representative actually holds a significant amount of support from the student body.
Transparency is also important during the election process. Students have a right to know what happens when a candidate violates campaign guidelines and how the individual is dealt with by the Election Board. The Behrend Beacon staff is aware that one candidate, Angel Mora, was disqualified from the Chief of Staff race for violating guidelines of the SGA elections, but further information regarding the situation is not being disclosed. Other candidates and members of the SGA have shared information regarding the guidelines that were broken, however, no official information has been released for the student body. At this point in time, only the members of the election committee and Mora himself hold any credible information regarding his disqualification.
The SGA constitution denotes in Section 9.16 that, “All elections shall be conducted by secret ballot.” We are calling upon the SGA to remove this from their constitution so that all future election results are available to the student body.
As section 3.2 of the SGA constitution reads, “The SGA shall act as the representative body of the students to the administration, faculty and staff of the College on matters such as the quality and effectiveness of the administration, faculty and staff; co-curricular activities and programs; the promotion of a quality social and intellectual atmosphere at the College; and the general operations, maintenance, and expansion of the College.” In order to properly govern, the SGA needs to be as transparent as possible, and this should not exclude the election process and results.
We cannot speak for how past elections were run, but during this election, the Head of Elections and everyone else involved with the process acted in accordance with the rules and regulations. We want to make it clear that this is not a criticism of the individuals managing the process, but the process itself. It has been made known to the Beacon staff that the election results have never been released during the SGA’s 60-year history. However, simple tradition is not a valid rationale to justify the breach of transparency that is leaving students in the dark as to their elected representatives. To this end, we, the staff of the Behrend Beacon, are calling for a change so that the Behrend community is able to know more about the election process and results.