The following reflects the majority opinion of the editorial board.
Miami’s Associated Student Government (ASG) serves as the governing body which makes decisions on behalf of students. They control $1.2 million in student fees, make decisions about funding for student organizations and influence (directly and indirectly) many aspects of student life.
As the elected body representing Miami students, they should hold themselves to a high standard of conduct, prioritizing voter outreach, transparent governance and clear communication with the public. Unfortunately, many of our elected representatives have not demonstrated such conduct this semester.
This semester ASG dealt with an internal scandal regarding allegations of the use of a racial slur in a snapchat video. This scandal resulted in a 10 day long investigation, a petition causing internal strife, a closed-door meeting and the resignation of four ASG senators and one cabinet member. All of which occurred without any serious effort by ASG to inform the public.
In fact, they tried to cover it up. ASG barred The Miami Student’s reporter from a meeting to discuss this incident — a violation of Ohio Public Meeting Laws. They made no effort to address what happened on their Facebook or Twitter pages, the communications secretary issued no official statement regarding the issue, the executive session was excluded from the Nov. 13 minutes and cut from the footage of the Nov. 13 meeting livestream on Facebook.
This is not the manner of conduct we expect from our ASG representatives. They must use this incident as a moment of reckoning.
The five empty seats account for seven percent of all elected positions in ASG. This is a crucial opportunity for change in our student government. ASG’s membership is predominantly white. The Speaker of the Senate Cole Hankins, said “Recruiting diverse candidates has been a high priority for ASG and it will continue to be.” But if ASG wants to prove they truly value diversity and have learned from this incident, then they should take concrete steps to encourage more diverse candidates to fill the empty seats.
The openings serve as a potential opportunity for students to challenge and change their representation. When classes resume next semester, students who are passionate about issues on campus need to run for seats, especially if a seat is being campaigned for by an unopposed candidate.
One of the best ways to change ASG is to make sure that each election is a competition of ideas to ensure the best candidate wins.
Along with adding new, diverse members to their body, ASG must also work toward fixing its communication issues. Most students do not know who their senators are. This largely has to do with the reality that most students do not see or hear from their representatives, except of course when it’s time for us to vote.
Our ASG representatives should be widely recognized and active members of the Miami community. They should communicate with constituents more in order to keep them updated on the operations of ASG.
That is not happening within the current government. What we are seeing is a student government that is out of touch with students and makes impactful decisions behind closed doors.
What ASG fails to realize is that most students can be interested in what is happening within their student government. They have opinions on issues within their community, and they want their representatives to hear their concerns. They especially want to know how their student government is reacting to incidents and scandals on campus.
Last spring, ASG put out a lengthy statement regarding issues of race relations on campus, yet when related issues occur within their own governing body, they are silent.
ASG is a public body charged with serving students. They are not a student organization. They do not get to flip between the two at their convenience. If something is happening within this public body, students have the right to know — and ASG has an obligation to inform them.
The actions made this semester by Associated Student Government show that our representatives do not adequately represent the student body, and they fail to hold themselves accountable for their flaws and mistakes.
When new seats are filled in the spring, a new era must begin in student government. Diversity must be valued, students must be kept informed by their representatives and the student government must hold themselves accountable instead of covering up their mistakes.
That is the type of student government Miami deserves, and that is what ASG must strive toward.