On Reconciling with the Idea of SGA

Over a year ago, I wrote an article in the Voice calling for a complete overhaul of student government elections at Connecticut College. I suggested that even choosing SGA members via lottery would be preferable to the current facade of an election, and imagined that all issues that students might have could just go to a schoolwide online referendum instead of bureaucratizing around the archaic structure of an election.

This year, I find myself interested in contesting the results of the recent elections on the grounds of misinformation and lack of transparency. What happened? Where did I find all this faith to invest in SGA that made me want to expect transparency from them, given that I have never recognized the legitimacy of SGA as an elected body?

It turns out that the events of February, March and April 2015 were transformative in more ways than one. Apart from demonstrating the social identity-based (race, class, gender and so forth) fault lines in our “community,” the events showed that the “administration” and those looking for social change must always exist in tension with each other. The events made obvious the corporate nature of the institution we live and work in, and showed that corporations, no matter their legal status, are not people – they are devoid of the compassion that one expects from a person. This means that to work within a corporate body, one must use tools of political coercion instead of voicing moral outrage. We also learned that the lone student voice doesn’t cohere well because it is prone to getting shut down. But the collective, especially in collusion with media sources that create a PR disaster, cannot be ignored as easily.

These few months have also showed us how different students inhabit different political spheres at the College. The surface of sameness that was becoming routine was shattered as we saw camps of political ideology develop. My complaint from a year ago, of every candidate running for election being the same in essence, became void this year. Platforms emerged and the campus politicized.

In the face of politicization, and in the face of the realization of administrative blockages clogging up the process of change on this campus, it seems that a strategy of “adaptive resistance” is called for – which is to say, anything goes. We protest, write resolutions, email, talk to the media, have presentations, demonstrations, teach-ins – we do whatever we need to do to further the cause of social justice and equity. No holds barred. In this spirit of dynamism, I have come to realize that while the electoral process might sometimes seem unworthy of participation because of its flippancy, SGA is inevitably one of the strategies that we must employ.

Which means it is ours to fix. It is ours to make sure that the elections can be less of a joke, that the meetings can be less elitist and classist in their form and less restrictive in their content, that the organization as a whole can be less of a self-centered venue where one group can “win” over another and more of a forum for changing systems that continue to fail us. It is ours to peer closely at elections that no one understands. This is probably the one place in the world where we have the most agency to change the political and social structure around us, and as distasteful or irrelevant as it might seem at first glance, SGA can be revolutionized to help serve this end.•