Monday, December 08, 2008

I wrote a letter to the Red&Black that was published Friday about the new tuition fees, the transgressions of the Board of Regents, and the SGA's failure to appropriately deal with it. The original letter follows here:

"Mr. Connor McCarthy, it is time to tender your resignation.

Yes, you. You and all your associates on the Student Government Association. We did not elect you so you could beef up your résumé for law school applications. We did not elect you so you could toady to the administration.

We elected you - hired you, really - to act as our intermediary and advocate in the running of this school. You've failed to do your job, and I'm afraid we'll have to let you go. I was upset to hear of the fee increase, especially since the Board of Regents did not follow established procedures or solicit student opinion before doing this.

As I read the article, though, I felt assured I would read the outrage of those representatives I voted to speak for me.

Well, Mr. McCarthy? Where is the outrage? Where is the dramatic stand against the University? Where is the demand that the University treat its students with the common respect we deserve?

Oh, I know it's all been said before: SGA can only do so much. Maybe that's true. Maybe the SGA is only good for the small bureaucratic victories we've seen from it in the past. In that case, perhaps it is time for the SGA to dissolve until a more effective body can take its place. If the SGA will not fight to represent students, then it has no right to claim its position.

Demand accountability. Demand change. Show some outrage. Or do the honorable thing and go."

It seems I struck a nerve: I left for the weekend and returned to find my e-mail inbox full, a number of messages from people I do not know on my cell phone, and Facebook absolutely crowded out.

[A pointer to student groups: it is really creepy to call someone you don't know because they write a letter in the paper; there are less stalkerish ways to contact me. UGAMiracle did it; now SGA has gone and done the same. Really, guys?]

A lot of SGA senators wrote to me telling me I was wrong and why I was wrong. A good deal more non-SGA-affiliated people wrote to compliment me and tell me they agreed in every particular. If you're reading this, SGA folk: this is the view that most people on campus have of you. Consider it, and consider why that might be.

I stand by every word I wrote. I invite anyone who disputes my opinion to come and speak to me. Find me on Facebook or comment on this blog; you and I will get coffee and address all your concerns face-to-face. That's the appropriate way to deal with an opposing opinion.

Let us be clear once more: the fee, while significant, is not the issue I want the SGA to be concerned with. The issue is the blatant disregard for student opinion or procedure in enacting this fee.

First argument I was sent:
Connor McCarthy was outraged. He worked hard with the senators and demanded that they get outraged.

Unfortunately, the general student body has not heard any of that outrage. The SGA has failed to relate to and communicate with those it represents. Most students are as concerned with the SGA as they are with the inner workings of the College Republicans or the Demosthenian Society; one comment on the SGA I heard was: "The plus of the SGA is that we get to see a lot of dumb t-shirts and weird little party names when they run for reelection in the Spring; the minus is that they take up space in the newspaper. That's about all they do." If the SGA are truly student leaders, then they must connect with the student body and lead.

Second argument:
It's the Board of Regents. There's really nothing that we can do about it. Letter-writing campaigns? Petitions? Why should they care?

The Board of Regents is appointed by the governor, Sonny Perdue. The Board of Regents' policies affect 283,000 students, 11,000 faculty, and almost 29,000 staff. Most of these people are registered voters. Most of the students have parents who are paying for their educations and are also registered voters. You're right: let's not write to the Board. Let's write to Sonny.

You say you can't get the organization and mobilizing power to do this? Then you're not leaders. You're not effective. Resign. If you are student leaders, then use that position to lead. Perhaps this has never been done before, but that only means that you have a muscle you have not flexed. If the SGAs of the universities of Georgia work together to actually have pressure put on the Board of Regents, that will be a show of power that will last you for years. Write to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Write to other universities. Organize. Mobilize.

Third argument:
The SGA actually gets a lot done, and we really do care.

For every accomplishment of the SGA I have seen, I see many lapses. Their successes do not outweight their failures or plain ignorances of what needs doing. If they do not have power to deal with the Board, then they have no business speaking on anything that it does. If they are weak, then we do not need them. An ineffective SGA is bad for the student body because it allows us to believe we have an advocate when we do not, placating us when we ought to rise.

As one man said:
"The illusion of good government is a greater evil than bad government or no government at all."

Endnote: I've heard that the SGA has a few tentative little goals to do things like get a student on the Board--probably as a non-voting member. Don't chicken out on us. You have exactly as much power as you choose to have. Push the envelope now and your successors will have that power too. If the Board of Regents has pressure put on it from above, then that is a lesson they will remain with for years to come. Remember, in your position if you're not making a few enemies, then you're not doing your job right.

Have an opinion? Here:
  • These links are information about the new fee.
Here's the SGA's take
And here's the article from before it was voted on . . .
And this is what the Board did wrong.
  • These are the addresses, phone, and fax numbers of the members of the Board of Regents. Enjoy.
University System of Georgia Board of Regents
  • This is SGA President Connor McCarthy's e-mail address. Demand change and demand action, but do so politely and do not do so anonymously. Treat him as you would like to be treated.
Connor McCarthy
  • Of course, here's the SGA's general e-mail address as well. The same caveat applies.
Student Government Association
  • Want to send a letter to Sonny Perdue? Here's his office. Make your points reasonably and intelligently. An angry pointless letter accomplishes little or nothing.
  • No, I guess you'd like to write to the paper. That's good too. Here's the Red&Black--
  • And if you're up for some big hitting, here's the Atlanta-Journal Constitution:


Zaid at UGA said...

I'm glad somebody told Connor and the suckups off

Andrew said...

I've written to them as well. It's great when accountability magically falls missing like your slutty neighbor's hymen.