Student Senator Donald Garrett recently resigned from the Student Government following a movement for his impeachment. This article is not necessarily about the merits of Garrett’s proposed lawsuit on the state level, which raised SG’s concerns, nor is it about the earlier feud between Michael Jordan and Matthew Short. This article is about the general attitude exhibited by many members of Student Senate concerning the office to which they’ve been elected. In an online video available via Connect2Mason, many student senators voice their opinions regarding the lawsuit that was raised for initially choosing to vote via secret ballot. According to the meeting’s minutes, senators felt that retribution might be sought against them if they openly declared loyalty to a specific side on an issue.
Certainly, voting by secret ballot is illegal under the Freedom of Information Act. Taxpayer money funds George Mason University, which in turn funds SG. It’s frustrating to see almost all student senators say, “Well, I didn’t expect to get sued,” or “Well, this is a club. I came here to have fun!” While I personally don’t believe in litigation as a means of conflict resolution, I can tell you I would never break the law to appease a few people who feel uncomfortable telling their friends how they voted on an issue. If you are even slightly inclined to break a state law because someone in your club is afraid of stepping on anybody’s toes, you are the one who needs to be impeached for defying state laws. Furthermore, I don’t want people in Student Senate who admit they are “just there to have fun” to be spending my money.
After hearing a senator say, “I feel like we’ve forgotten that [we’re here just to have fun],” it became evident to me that many people in SG must not know who funds their organization or what SG is actually supposed to do. “This is a club. Why am I being sued?” was a concern I heard from one of the senators. If you’re in a mock-governmental organization, you should not be surprised when people go to the full extent of the law to sue you for violating state regulations. In my opinion, the most wonderfully confusing argument against Garrett’s lawsuit came from a senator who acknowledged that Garrett has standing to sue. This senator stated that he understood the justification for a lawsuit against SG because Garrett felt, in accordance with the FOIA, that he had been “treated wrong.” The only argument against the lawsuit offered by this senator, however, was that Garrett’s intention to initiate legal action was disproportionate to the matter at hand. If you’re willing to break the law, you should be willing to defend your decisions in court rather than impeach the person who confronts you — especially if you’re a senator in a formal government.
While it may be overkill to file a lawsuit over something that could be resolved internally, the proposition is neither illegal nor, grounds for impeachment. Nowhere in the SG constitution is there a prohibition on the body being justly approached with litigation. It is no secret that I am the president of an organization on campus. If a member of my organization were to sue me for doing something illegal, I would take them on in court rather than initiating impeachment procedures — after all, if I believed as strongly as SG does that my actions were within legal boundaries, I would have nothing to fear. I would love a response from someone in the Election Dispute Commission who can cite any document stipulating that following state law and raising legitimate legal concerns is grounds for impeachment proceedings.
In fact, I’d like to pose a question to SG: What do you actually do? I’m interested to see what legitimate power the organization holds that we, as lowly students, cannot wield by writing pissed-off letters to housing or our college’s deans. I respect the fact that you act as a model to prepare future politicians for Congress, since I’m sure that’s where all of you will end up. It just seems to me that, regardless of what changes we say we’d like to see on “What Do You Want Wednesdays,” they never actually happen. So, really, my question is: Can anyone in SG actually offer a coherent justification for your existence at Mason? What are you actually doing for the students that we can’t do on our own? For a school that’s so keen on conservative economics, you’d think its student government would be interested in efficiency. From the video of the deliberation over theresolution to send Garrett to the EOC for impeachment, it seems obvious that you’re not entirely sure what purpose you serve. Then again, as many student senators argued in support of sending Garrett to the EOC for an impeachment hearing. , maybe you’re just there to have fun. A point raised by another senator really sums up my argument: “Where are we right now as an organization? People keep asking me that. I don’t know. I don’t know the answer. I’ve been here for two years and I have no idea,” the student senator said. Where does your $20,000 budget go? Because your funds are public, maybe students struggling to pay their tuition would find comfort in the knowledge that, presumably, you don’t spend the entire $20,000 on pizza parties and cookies to hand out at the clock tower. How much money is required to pass resolutions that support bills floating about in Congress?
Maybe your funds should be postponed until you can articulate your purpose.