Editorial: SGA deliberations should go on the record

by Bob Maley, Editor in Chief

In our last issue, I discussed the dangers of allowing a government to infringe the rights of a free press and the extent to which our Student Government Association has and is currently violating those rights. Since then, both The Review and the SGA have been subject to increased scrutiny and discussion. More importantly, through this process, the SVC community has taken a more active interest in both The Review and the SGA. I sincerely hope that even after the tension between these two institutions dies down, this interest will still exist. It is healthy for everyone to actively engage in these types of affairs. Accordingly, it will unequivocally remain the policy of The Review to continue to hold the SGA, as well as any other relevant body at SVC, accountable for any actions that do not constitute the best interests for our college.

However, members of the college administration and the current SGA executive board president have implored me to not use the names of SGA members while scrutinizing their actions. I personally believe that all premises given for this request are merely a farce designed to hinder this publication from holding our elected representatives accountable, as was my intention with my last editorial. However, as a courtesy and nothing more, I will not use any students’ names negatively in future editorials, though I do so under duress.

In a similar vein, I must draw attention to a current tactic that the SGA has employed in an attempt to undermine the journalistic freedom of this publication: the “executive session”. As per their constitution, the SGA reserves the right to enter into an “executive session.” From when executive session is entered until when it is exited, the SGA meeting is closed to the public and anything that is discussed is not included in the minutes, which are made public. Put plainly, the executive session allows the SGA to talk about anything that they do not want to be public knowledge. At the SGA meetings on both November 7 and November 14 when The Review was the subject of discussion, SGA entered into executive sessions. While the SGA has the right to enter executive sessions for valid reasons, using the executive session to keep comments about The Review off the record is grossly inappropriate for the self-evident principle of transparency in government.

SGA claims to be “the voice of the student body.” If this is true, then what does SGA have to hide? SGA claims to want to resolve the tension between itself and The Review in an open and civilized manner. If this is true, then why are SGA members hiding their comments behind the guise of executive session? I posed questions similar to this to the current executive board president, the current executive board secretary and the junior class senator who seconded the November 7 motion to enter an executive session. I asked them if they believed entering executive session in this case was consistent with the principles of an open and transparent government. I was told only by the executive board president that I should attend the SGA meetings.

In absence of any response of substance from the aforementioned SGA members, I will say that in my own opinion and on behalf of this publication, the SGA has cowardly hid behind their procedural prerogative of executive session in order to prevent this publication from quoting their anti-free press remarks as I did in my last editorial.

Recently, students elected a new SGA executive board, which will assume power next semester. It is my earnest hope that the new executive board, along with the rest of the SGA senate, will make a pledge to undo the actions of this semester’s SGA and set a new precedent: that interference with a free press is not the voice of the student body. Therefore, I ask you, readers, to continue to put pressure on the SGA to permanently end any discussion of cutting funding, exerting influence, or attempting to influence SVC administration with regards to The Review. I also ask you to continue to support this publication as we set a new standard – anyone who wields power here deserves to be held accountable.

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