Overbearing media hampers debate
The Student Government Association serves Tech in many different capacities. Perhaps the most intensive and tedious process SGA undertakes is allocating the Student Activity Fee to various student organizations. Students elect representatives and senators to take charge of these funds and dispense them responsibly. In addition to this important responsibility of fund allocation, elected students are asked to dedicate their time and energy to other initiatives such as improving the academic experience, enhancing student life, engaging our community, and recognizing the achievements of others.
As SGA is largely made up of elected students, it is appropriate for the electorate to be aware of its actions. To ensure that students are aware of what their Student Government is up to, SGA maintains a website, Facebook page, and Twitter account. A Vice President of Communications sends out copious emails and oversees a publicity committee for student outreach. In addition to this, student press is essential in spreading the good word about Tech’s SGA. In many ways, third party coverage of UHR and GSS meetings legitimizes SGA as an important and relevant organization.
Even while SGA seeks to engage the student body in its efforts to improving Tech, some matters need not be relayed in entirety to the entire campus. Like any organization, SGA has internal matters it must deal with in a private manner. When discussing candidates for office, debating award nominees or in cases considering disciplinary action against a member, the Undergraduate House may enter an executive session exclusive to elected members of the body. The purpose of this executive session is to prevent sensitive information from spreading. It would not be appropriate to discuss which candidates are more or less worthy of a position or award in an open forum. The receipt of an award, position or lack thereof does not validate or invalidate a person’s actions which secured him or her the nomination.
In any case, it is ridiculous and highly inappropriate to cite a state law as a means to be included in an SGA executive session.
This Tuesday, for the second time this school year, the Technique’s Mike Donohue incorrectly insisted he is entitled to enter executive session with the Undergraduate House because of O.C.G.A. Section 50-14-3. Donohue has twice failed to understand that the same Open Meetings Act he cites does not pertain to meetings discussing disciplinary action or dismissal of members. Furthermore, evaluation of personnel as is the case for awards selection is also excluded from this law.
On Tuesday night, Donohue prevented the House from carrying out its duties. By first refusing to leave the chamber without a notarized affidavit restricting topics for closed discussion, and then insisting to be forcibly removed from the meeting, Donohue consumed over 30 minutes of UHR’s time. Now next year’s budgets for Tier III student organizations are delayed an entire week. Donohue’s repeated protests of executive session are ungrounded, inconsiderate and absolutely selfish. Instead of calling attention to some illusory injustice of SGA, he stalls progress by demanding everyone focus on him. Donohue’s actions are an embarrassment to the Technique and do not reflect the quality journalism the student body expects of its newspaper.
Green fee unnecessary for improving campus
While I support green initiatives at Tech, I must respectfully disagree with the idea of a mandatory student sustainability fee. Currently, Tech has numerous successes in green initiatives and has received numerous awards for its efforts including Princeton Review 2010 Green Rating Honor role and an A- from the Sustainable Endowment Institute in 2011, among others. According to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in higher education, only 37 colleges and universities currently have a “green fee.” Of those that were surveyed by the Sustainable Endowment Institute, four have the same grade and 11 have worse grades for sustainability. This indicates that the fee isn’t the biggest factor in college sustainability.
Unlike the multitude of other fees students currently pay, the new fee offers no direct benefit to students. It has been proposed that the fee would directly affect the health and well-being of students on campus, but the campus lacks any noticeable signs of health risk due to environmental problems such as smog, waste buildup or significant radiation. Costs associated with energy costs and infrastructure should not to come from students, who do not directly benefit from them, but from the university and its affiliates.
On that point, the university has done very well: 32 buildings meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental design (LEED) standards, and all new construction is required to meet LEED Gold standards. Through efforts like tray-less cafeterias, recycling, energy management systems, water and heater reduction and LED lighting, the university has decreased its greenhouse emission by six percent since 2007. And, contrary to the letter published in the April 1 edition, the university has numerous on-campus renewable energy sources including the aforementioned solar panels, concentrated solar power systems and geothermal generators according to the Sustainability Endowment survey.
Tech students are already struggling with finances. With the changes to the HOPE scholarship and probable tuition increases, we do not need yet another fee that should really be the responsibility of the university.
Sustainability groups are still left with many options for raising funds for these projects themselves. Like all organizations, these groups can go through the SGA bills process and receive funding from the activities fund. They can also raise money from students and donors independently to fund projects. While increasing sustainability is indeed an important goal for Tech, there are much better ways to achieve it than a fee.