Muhlenberg’s Student Government Association (SGA) held its most recent town hall on Wednesday, Mar. 17 with the intent to discuss the upcoming SGA elections and to hear students’ input on proposed changes to the vice presidential election process. However, upon the large discussion, students attending the meeting made it clear they wanted to see changes that extended much further than the SGA election process for vice president.
Adam Marcus ’22, current SGA vice president, hosted the town hall with over 40 students in attendance, including SGA representatives.
Marcus began with an overview of the election process, explaining that the student body at large currently elects the 22 representatives and the president. Once these members are selected, SGA casts internal votes for the vice president and seven other executive board positions. Marcus, as well as the rest of SGA, wanted to discuss with the student body the proposition that the president and vice president both be elected in the general election and the rest of the board be elected internally. Marcus also mentioned the possibility of having all of the board members elected by the student body at large.
Before opening the floor to Q&A, Marcus highlighted a pros and cons list drafted by SGA members regarding the current election process. The pros of this system included: 1) maintaining consistency; 2) one general election is likely to result in a higher voter turnout; and 3) SGA members work closely with their fellow representatives and have a good sense of who is best fit for the positions.
The con of keeping the current format is that there is less student involvement in electing the vice president and rest of the board.
Students lined up to voice their input and frustrations about the SGA election process and the organization as a whole.
“What do you have to lose by making the vote more democratic? Yes, voter turnout will lower but still people who care will vote. Seems like the obvious choice.”
“What happens if the President has to step down?” one student asked.
Marcus replied, “Per the bylaws, the VP, through the succession plan, takes over for the remainder of the term and a new VP is elected internally by the SGA.”
The current succession plan was not popular with the students attending the meeting. The same student who asked the question argued that the student body did not elect and does not know the agenda of the current vice president, who would replace the president in the current succession plan. This student felt that because the vice president position has so much responsibility and influence on Muhlenberg students, the student body should therefore elect the person who is to fill that role. Every comment related to this subject supported this student’s frustrations.
Another student commented, “What do you have to lose by making the vote more democratic? Yes, voter turnout will lower but still people who care will vote. Seems like the obvious choice.”
Many students expressed their complete disapproval of having any internal elections at all. Many students switched from asking questions about the electoral process to voicing their concerns with the current SGA, expressing that they know nothing about SGA or what it does.
“SGA needs to come to the Office of Multicultural Life and ask for our voice.”
A current junior commented on how a petition they signed earlier this week was their first ever interaction with SGA.
A first-year student commented on how they did not know any of the 22 representatives or the names of the current president or vice president until that evening. This same student said, “There are maybe emails, but the connection is not there. I feel my voice is not being heard, because no one is reaching out saying we are here for you.”
The students attending the town hall did not feel SGA was properly promoting themselves as a resource for students. This led to another student expressing their distaste with the lack of connection between the SGA and affinity and minority groups on campus. Again, the majority of attendees supported this statement.
Another student added, “SGA needs to come to the Office of Multicultural Life and ask for our voice.”
The students demanded that the current SGA representatives end the meeting by listing their goals on how they plan to communicate and connect with all students on campus.
Current SGA President, Jordan Soffer ’21, concluded the meeting by saying the vote to amend the SGA election will happen within SGA in 1-2 weeks. Soffer made it clear that the concerns that had been voiced that night would be taken into account. Soffer also committed to start planning and setting goals within SGA to give a voice to all students at Muhlenberg.
In the days following the town hall, Zaire Carter ‘22, SGA member and proponent of students electing the vice president, was happy to reflect on the event’s large turnout and students’ demand for change.
“This is my third year on SGA and that was the first time I’ve seen so many students of color directly speak to SGA,” said Carter. “And they did exactly what students should do. They shared with us what they wanted to see in THEIR student government. SGA unfortunately, has been detached from student life and the student experience. I think part of that is definitely COVID related, but when I was a first-year on SGA, we were discussing how distant SGA was from the student body, so clearly something needed to change.”
Carter emphasized that SGA has acted quickly to address students’ concerns and what they expect from the organization.
“For this upcoming election the student body will be able to vote on ALL of the positions on SGA,” announced Carter. “This is a great step for SGA and a tremendous opportunity for the student body to begin to build a meaningful, long-lasting relationship with their student government.”
Carter concluded that SGA will continue to work in earnest for the entire Muhlenberg student body.
“I also want to assure students that there are passionate, dedicated, and smart people on SGA that are putting in the work every day. I know it isn’t always seen or felt, and believe me, we are working on that now, but please know there are people working and fighting for you.”