Highly contested ethics resolution fails in SGA|
By Jennifer Dykes
May 28, 1999
In Undergraduate Student Council's last meeting of the school year, the SGA Resolution on Community Leadership failed, echoing the results of the earlier Graduate Student Senate meeting. The resolution consisted of several recommendations designed to join Tech organizations through shared values, service orientation, and leadership development.
The resolution was written primarily by the JCOC. "Part of JCOC's mission is to help organizations be successful," said Tobias Stanelle, who spoke to USC in support of the policy. The bill, however, contained controversial issues: primarily the suggested strategy to "require candidates for officer positions to recognize all campus affiliations including position and duration of involvement." This statement sparked concern in students for legal, private, and ethical reasons.
Two organizations, GALA and ANAK, would be particularly affected by this suggestion. GALA's response to the Resolution states that "GALA believes the Resolution, despite SGA's best intentions, will become an instrument of discrimination within our community and constitutes an unnecessary invasion of privacy." Ultimately, however, GALA would support a policy where all candidates running for SGA positions disclose their affiliations due to the risks of conflicts of interest.
In the legal arena, Dean Gail DiSabatino stated, "We do not believe that these are major legal issues in the way it is written." Before voting on the bill, USC amended it to delete the clause including a suggestion for disclosure of affiliations, citing legal and privacy issues.
The bill was also criticized for being too vague. "It's about fostering discussion," said Stanelle. "It is intentionally vague and open-ended. We wanted it to apply broadly." He explained that, for the document to have applications towards all organizations, it had to be written in such a manner than individual organizations could adapt it to meet their needs.
Those opposed raised concerns as to how the bill would be received. "They're saying it is not policy, but coming from SGA it might be perceived as policy," said Robyn Heartz, coordinating officer for GSS. "The graduates were concerned that this might be too binding." During the past week, many representatives contacted their constituents and the leaders of several organizations. Several organizations were against this bill, and several, including Society of Women Engineers and ANAK, had members present to voice their beliefs.
When the bill was first brought to the floor, a roll call vote was requested and taken to see if the bill should even be considered. A two-thirds vote against it would have wiped the bill off the table, as if it never existed. The vote was split down the middle, and discussion followed. Concern was present among members as to whether SGA was the place for the discussion of ethics in organizations. The Presidents' Council, which had met to discuss the issue the previous day, was suggested. "I don't see how Student Government is the place for us to tell people how to run their organizations. SGA should be proactive in this manner and have open forums," said parliamentarian Divya Gupta. Others, however, felt that SGA was where the discussion must begin. "I think we need to open up discussion. I think SGA would be a good example to go ahead and discuss this. Discussion concerning this should be opened up to the entire campus," said co-op representative Eric Hollins.
Despite all the differing opinions concerning the bill and its impact on organizations, everyone agreed the issue of the integrity of organizations is important and needs to be discussed somewhere. "I think it's an important issue that needs to be discussed," said ANAK president Anu Khurana. "I hope that discussion doesn't cease. It is so important that these issues be talked about."
The bill has opened up more sharing of ideas concerning organizations and what the role of these organizations should be on campus. "I think discussion should continue and we should find a forum for it," said Dean Gail DiSabatino. Town hall meetings and open forums were among the suggestions as to where the issue should be moved.
"This isn't about the outcome. It's about the process. It's supposed to foster discussion. It has done that," said Stanelle.