EdBoard: in support of removing the SBP and SBVP positions

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

The Student Government Executive Committee announced a reform to improve Carnegie Mellon’s student government by removing the Student Body President (SBP) and Student Body Vice President (SBVP) postions. Instead, the Undergraduate Student Senate Chair and the Graduate Student Assembly (GSA) President would be co-heads of student government. The Tartan Editorial Board supports the initiative. We believe it will have an overwhelmingly positive impact on the workings of our student government.

Currently, the Student Government Executive Committee (which acts as the head of student government) includes the SBP and SBVP, and the two heads of the legislative branches of Student Government: the GSA President and Student Senate Chair. The key issue with this arrangement is that the SBP and SBVP are supposed to represent the whole of the student body when the positions are typically occupied only by undergraduate students.

This leads to a slew of misunderstandings as to which position does what. While many students believe that the SBP is the undergraduate’s advocate, reforms over time have made the role of the SBP a bit more like a figurehead. It is actually the Undergraduate Senate Chair who has the most impact on the issues of undergraduate students. The role of Senate Chair is similar to the GSA President who, in practice, advocates for all graduate students with direct impact on graduate reforms rather than the office of the SBP.

Removing the SBP and SBVP will allow for clearer positions and an executive committee with a direct line to impacting the various communities of the student body. It will also improve communication as students will know who their representative is, and that representative will have the power to address their concerns.

This change has been long in the making, as the lack of representation for graduate students in the office of the SBP has proved to inaccurately address the needs of the graduate student body as those in positions just do not have the experience with that community. Furthermore, the Senate and the GSA both initiate their own reforms within their committees to address the student body’s largest concerns, which makes the executive obsolete. If anything, the executive has become more of a formal barrier than a body to promote efficient change — as that change is usually addressed in the respective legislative bodies.

Additionally, the Senate Chair and GSA President are required to be much more in touch with student government policy and decision making than the SBP and SBVP. Senate Chair and GSA President are internally elected from their respective organizations, whereas SBP and SBVP are voted on by the entire student body. As such, there is no guarantee that those elected to SBP and SBVP will even have the proper credentials or experience to competently hold the positions. Having Senate Chair and GSA serving as co-heads of student government ensures familiarity with student government procedures and policy — something necessary for such an important position.

But due to the nature of Senate and GSA, the general student body cannot choose who represents them. Senate members are voted on by college members and GSA members are selected at the program level. But both Senate and GSA always seem to have some number of vacancies. This is a reflection of the average student’s apathy — a majority of students have no interest in student government affairs. This is the unfortunate reality; the Senate and GSA make many decisions that affect the student body. Students should be more invested in student government because they are the ones who have the power to enact change. But given the current atmosphere surrounding student government, it makes sense to move the power to select the heads of student government to the people who do actually care: the members of Senate and GSA.

The Tartan commends the Student Government Executive Committee for conducting this assessment and proposing a change that will positively effect our Student Government.