Grayson Joslin is a freshman political science major and writes “Soapbox” for The Daily News. He is also a senator for Ball State’s Student Government Association. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.
Since fifth grade, I have wanted to be a leader.
What started as a letter to former President Barack Obama in late 2013 turned into my passion: to help people’s voices be heard and understood.
Wherever I was, I wanted to motivate my fellow peers and make meaningful change.
When I arrived at Ball State last fall and joined the Student Government Association (SGA), I ran into something that I had not come across before in my time as a student leader: stagnation inside student government and disinterest from students.
In previous years, there has been unspoken animosity between SGA and the Ball State students at large. One prominent example occurred in December 2019, when SGA considered a resolution calling on the University Senate to change the student conduct code to adopt a zero-tolerance policy to fraternity and sororities on campus. This policy would penalize Greek life organizations by suspending recognition of a chapter if they were found to have committed sexual assult or hazing.
The amendment was passed and sent to the University Senate for further review, but as of now, they have not adopted the guidelines into the code.
This is not just an organization despised due to the zero-tolerance amendment more than two years ago; this is also the same organization that had the president resign over derogatory tweets towards Chinese culture almost a decade ago. SGA has been on a decline due to these controversies and more that go back years.
This dissent has negatively affected both representatives and the represented, especially in regards to voter turnout in SGA elections.
Three of the past five elections, including the last two, have seen only one ticket run and win by default. The Elections Code states that if only one executive board ticket runs, then the option of no confidence is added. The no confidence choice states the student voting feels that the sole ticket is not qualified to lead SGA.
The no confidence option has never received more than 30 percent of the vote when available. Because of this, when one ticket runs, they are the only credible option.
The nadir came in 2021, when only 644 students voted in the SGA election, a single ticket affair. Using the fall 2020 enrollment figures —which counted 15,780 undergraduate students— only 4 percent of eligible students voted in the election.
The voting turnout didn’t improve significantly this year — only 724 students cast their votes in another single ticket election.
When students see the low voter turnout, they further lose faith in SGA. It feels like “Groundhog Day,” but this is not a laughing matter. In a democracy, it is healthy to have competition for elections. It allows the public to have choices and hold those in charge accountable.
Plain and simple, SGA is not a healthy democracy.
There may be many causes as to why SGA is distrusted, but the most pressing to me is the fact that, due to the increase in single-ticket elections, the choice on who to lead is already decided before the election season begins.
The SGA constitution states the purpose of this organization is “be the voice of the student body.” However, when I have asked people across Ball State throughout this year about SGA, the most common response is, “We have a student government?”
That alone should be overly concerning.
However, SGA is not the only group at fault. The student body does not understand the functions of SGA or the limits of their powers. The student body’s lack of dedication into learning about SGA has also added to this issue. Each side needs to take blame and accept responsibility for the shortcomings that have happened in previous years.
I recognize why most students are oblivious to our student government. Most of what SGA has considered in the past few years have been amendments micromanaging its own governing documents, rather than resolutions calling on the University Senate for considerable change for students on campus.
Amendments establish changes in the governing documents for any number of reasons while a resolution voices SGA’s opinion or calls to action matters occurring at Ball State outside of SGA’s jurisdiction. An example of a resolution that actually works for SGA’s constituents came in December 2021, when the Student Senate passed a resolution calling on the University Senate to raise the minimum wage to at least $9 an hour.
Over the past two academic years, there have been 53 amendments considered in the Student Senate. On the contrary, only six resolutions were considered during the same period.
This is unacceptable when SGA’s flagship goal is to “advocate and bring attention to issues of concern on behalf of the Student Body,” per the SGA Constitution.
Worse, SGA’s leadership has reaped rewards while the campus remains underserved by its representatives.
The five executive officers of SGA — the president, vice president, chief administrator, treasurer and president pro tempore — receive stipends equal to two-thirds of current in-state tuition. The fact the executive board is being reimbursed for what some students might say is not enough done to help the student body might turn people away from SGA.
The fact that we have allowed SGA’s reputation to sink this low is embarrassing, disappointing and infuriating. Other Indiana schools such as Purdue and Butler have seen some of their highest election turnouts in recent memory the past two years, so what is stopping us from having these impressive turnout numbers too?
You, the students, have a voice. Be compelled to use it. SGA needs to listen to the student body’s concerns, and the student body needs to press SGA at every turn.
I propose to you this — be an outsider and run for SGA office.
Outsiders running in the SGA election is not a novel concept. In the 2020 SGA election, one slate stood out from the rest: Alliance.
The ticket consisted of students who did not have experience in SGA, and their approach to campaigning has influenced the previous two elections, as shown by executive tickets shifting from platform points to platform focuses. Alliance did not win, however, placing second in the runoff elections as the more experienced Bold slate took victory.
I do not want to stick with the status quo. It is not working, and we must try something different to change student leadership for the better at Ball State.
I see a future for SGA, a bright outlook where we are the model student government organization, where other colleges want to be like us. There is a lot of work to be done to build back up the prominence of SGA at Ball State, but I am confident in the student body’s willingness to shape this university into a better place for all.
Contact Grayson Joslin with comments at email@example.com or on Twitter @GraysonMJoslin.