North Texas Daily

Student senator claims unfair treatment in SGA

Student senator claims unfair treatment in SGA

April 14
02:17 2016

Lisa DreherStaff Writer

@lisa_dreher97

Updated Thursday, April 14

Tiffany Miller was recently re-elected as the SGA senator for the College of Arts and Sciences, but in the days leading up to the contest, she and a few of her colleagues considered leaving because of internal conflicts they say are degrading SGA’s integrity.

About 11 percent of the undergraduate population are witnessing a run-off election for the SGA president, but beneath the campaign flyers and YouTube posts lies problems these senators say need to be fixed.

“I have tried to the best of my abilities since I was appointed in the fall to embody the spirit of what a senator represents,” Miller said. “I am not entirely convinced that everyone who is in SGA is in SGA for the benefit of the students.”

For themselves

Miller said some members use SGA as a résumé builder. Currently UNT’s fencing club president, a Learning Center tutor and nonprofit organization employee, Miller said she does not need participation in SGA to be employable.

“That’s not why I am doing this,” Miller said. “I work very hard, or at least I try to. The fact that some senators in there are not as active and are not there for the same reasons is very frustrating to me.”

The senator said there are instances when her fellow members act rudely. Miller said some are on their phones, laugh or roll their eyes when someone talks about important matters like legislation during SGA sessions.

“They sit behind you and laugh and scoff at other senators,” Miller said.

College of Education senator Mercedes Mercado said executives disrespected Miller during meetings.

“That was something that she pointed out and she confronted with the exec members but it also bothered me to see that,” Mercado said. “I think more and more as the semester goes on, you see a lot more unprofessionalism during the meetings from the exec members.”

The election

Miller said executive members publicly supporting certain candidates are using their popularity to promote people. Executives should have their opinions on the candidates because they are voting as students, but should not favor any one specific candidate altogether, Miller said.

“If the entire exec branch would campaign on behalf of one person, if that person is ability-wise less qualified than someone else, it’s kind of giving an unfair advantage,” Miller said.

For example, Grant Hale and Barrett Cole, the pair locked in the run-off election, suggested who to vote for in a flyer. They named specific candidates in the senatorial races who voters should pick. Not all candidates who ran were included in their endorsement.

The SGA Election Board heard a case about possible campaigning violations by presidential candidate Hale and Cole. SGA Director of Student Affairs Dawaelyne Jones said he talked about the presidential candidates with SGA College of Arts and Sciences senator Mia Muric. Muric told the Election Board Jones was campaigning on behalf of Hale in the SGA office. The office is off-limits for campaigning, according to SGA’s Election Code.

The Election Board unanimously voted 3-0, with Election Commissioner Aaron Davis abstaining, no unethical campaigning occurred. Hale said he was unaware Jones expressed his support for Hale in the SGA office.

“Anybody who publicly said they supported us is of their own free will,” Hale said.

Jones said he fairly talked about each candidate and did not express support for specific candidates. Jones said Muric had ulterior motives when she alerted the board about their conversation.

“I was kind of blindsided by the whole thing,” Jones said. “It wouldn’t be me campaigning if we were sitting down talking about each candidate.”

Greek hold on SGA

Miller said Greek life members have too much influence in SGA. Three out of the eight executives in this administration are in fraternities or sororities.

“If anyone denies that it’s happening, they’re not being honest with themselves,” Miller said.

Both candidates in the run-off are fraternity members. The current president, Adam Alattry, and vice president, Christopher Lee, are also fraternity members. Before that, SGA president Troy Elliott and vice president Kam Willard, who stepped in for Elliott when he had to withdraw from school, were fraternity members.

Alattry is in the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity and Lee is in Pi Kappa Alpha. Miller said she does not believe there is a push to fill SGA with Greek members, and the senator said students from smaller or unpopular organizations should join student government.

“In some ways, it’s a lack of diversity,” Miller said.

Mercado, Muric and College of Public Affairs and Community Service senator Easton Lachlann considered leaving SGA because of the fraternity and sorority hold, they said.

“I think SGA would be happier if students who aren’t from Greek life just go ahead and leave,” Muric said. “That’s not what I want to do, I want to help my students as best as I can.”

Miller said the fact that Greek members invite their brothers and sisters to SGA is not the problem. The problem, however, is that Greeks have a wider network, and Miller said this cuts out students from other backgrounds and on-campus clubs.

“That’s opening the door for big fraternities and sororities to be able to get more people in office, because the other 95 percent of the campus is not showing interest,” Miller said.

Miller said when Alattry and Lee won last year’s election uncontested with less than four percent of the student body vote, it showed students’ apathy toward their university.

“That leaves 95.6 percent,” Miller said. “That’s a lot of students that aren’t showing interest.”

Miller said SGA needs students like those in the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science, a program where high school students take college credit and live at UNT.

“We need more people getting involved,” Miller said. “We need more people to care about what goes on at the university.”

Featured Image: New Media Arts junior and director of student affairs Dawaelyne Jones and political science junior and chief of staff Grant Hale work in the Student Government Association office. Paulina De Alva | Staff Photographer

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