Vacancy issues in SGA persist under new model


Beacon Archives

A Spring 2020 Student Government Association meeting. Photo by Yongze Wang.

By Charlie McKenna

The Student Government Association faces a slew of vacancies in its first semester under a newly established structure, despite filling several positions across its legislative branch in the last month.

As of publication, 18 of 36 positions in SGA sit unoccupied. Ten of those vacancies are in the Financial Equity Committee and Student Experience Senate, two new legislative bodies that were formally introduced to the organization in April when students ratified an overhaul of SGA’s constitution

Executive President Lindsay Debrosse attributed some of the current vacancies to the uncertainty in the 2020 spring semester when the new positions were created. Then, students jointly grappled with the pandemic and online learning for the first time. 

“I understand [SGA] wasn’t where people’s heads were at,” she said. “I think now with virtual org fair opening up, hopefully we’re able to amp up our social media game. That’s definitely going to get people talking.”

Vacancies have been an issue for the organization in the past. In the 2019-20 academic year, SGA was forced to hold its fall elections with no balloted candidates and faced multiple vacancies in its academic senate and executive board. The organization entered its fourth organization-wide meeting of the spring semester with 19 vacancies. Just six of the available 15 commissioner spots, which were meant to represent different communities on campus, were filled over the duration of the semester.

The organization moved to expand its legislative branch in the spring semester with an overhaul of its constitution, which has been implemented for the first time in the fall. 

The new policy established four new bodies in the organization—SES, FEC, a legislative review board, and a judicial review board. And though FEC and SES hold a combined 15 positions, just five have been filled three weeks into the fall semester. Only one student ran for a position in either body during SGA’s spring elections

The bodies were created with the intent of making SGA more equipped to handle the issues facing underrepresented communities by adding positions like first-generation college student senator and LGBTQIA+ senator. 

In SES, seven positions—including International and Intercultural senators—sit empty. SES aims to include a representative from each class, as well as senators representing different groups on campus like LGBTQ+ students, students of color, and disabled students. Eventually, the group hopes to work alongside the academic senate and FEC to pass legislation.

Three members were appointed to SES—Max Boone as Protesting Oppression with Education Reform senator, Priscilla Beltran as first-generation college student senator, and Senior Harper McKenzie as accessibility senator. All three appointments were made during SGA’s first student assembly meeting of the fall semester on Sept. 1.

Three of the current vacancies are in FEC, which aims to advocate for students’ financial needs. The committee is chaired by the Executive Treasurer and functions as a sister body to the Financial Advisory Board. Much like FAB, FEC features one representative from each class.

The sole position filled in FEC is that of Class of 2022 Senator, a role junior Azat Jumadurdyyev now occupies.

SGA also created a new honors program senator position in the spring, which was filled during their first student assembly meeting of the fall semester, on Sept. 1. The organization now has two vacancies in its academic senate and three on its executive board.

The Legislative Review Board, another branch created under the new constitution, also has yet to come to fruition. Just one of five executive cabinet positions is currently filled, as Communications Director Hannah Flaherty was appointed for a second semester in the role Sept. 1. 

HG Warrender was appointed Honors Program Senator in the Academic Senate on Sept.1. Pranit Chand was appointed IDIP Senator, a position that remained vacant throughout the spring semester, on Sept. 8, as was Vanecia Niamoko who filled the vacant Visual and Media Arts senator position, following Thomas Coughlin’s elevation to the executive treasurership. 

Former Executive President Will Palauskas told The Beacon in April that he saw the new bodies as having a long term impact on SGA and wasn’t concerned about the vacancies.

“I really expect to see more people getting involved in those [new] positions,” he said. “They’re really something that speaks to not only what’s current right now at Emerson but also what will continue to be important to students for years, if not decades, to come.”

Claire Rodenbush, who won the executive presidency in May and later resigned the position, said they began compiling a list of potential candidates for the open positions but “nothing ever came from it.”

More details about the new bodies will come together when SGA has had more chances to meet as an organization, Debrosse said. Three student assembly meetings have been held this semester. 

“So for me, getting through the first student assembly and [seeing] where everyone’s head is at,” she said. “We’re definitely going to take the time to talk about it.”