At a time when the role of the Student Government Association (SGA) Executive President has been a topic of discussion, after current executive president Pedro Khoury received two resolutions – a vote of no confidence and a statement asking for his resignation – from the organization, it is important to look at exactly what the role of SGA president means. The purpose of the organization, as defined in its constitution, is “to represent all undergraduate students … (and provide) an open forum for student concerns, student representation on all College-wide Governance committees and (strive) to further effective communication and provide for the representation of all undergraduate students in the formulation of college policies.”
According to the SGA Constitution, as the backbone of the organization, the president’s role includes acting as the official spokesperson, presiding over all regular and executive board meetings, coordinating the duties of SGA membership and appointing and removing chairs to all committees.
Khoury said the president is also responsible for setting a vision for the entire organization and, with the help of the Executive Board, making that vision work. “It’s the president’s job to prioritize the problems at hand,” Khoury said. Khoury also acts as a representative for the entire student body at functions within as well as outside of the College.
According to Magda Manetas, SGA advisor, the role of the president is to “provide leadership for the organization as a whole, so the organization can achieve its mission.”
The president is further responsible for overseeing the delegation of the government’s responsibilities and to ensure that the structure is functioning, she said.
“What I look for in a leader is someone who I can follow,” Lee Whitesell, senator of Culture and Society, said. “With Pedro for a while there, it seemed like his goals were not concise.”
Khoury said he regards his role as SGA president with honor. Even after the resolutions were presented, Khoury said his view of his role never changed. He still had a duty to act as president.
According to Khoury, although a candidate for SGA president must have one year experience within the organization in an elected position, many SGA members feel this amount of time is insufficient.
Khoury came into his position with exactly that – one year of experience after serving as senator at large for the 2003-04 academic year.
“It’s clear to us now that (Khoury) didn’t have enough experience,” Whitesell said.
Khoury said last year he sat on a number of committees, one of which was fundamental in setting forth plans for the Sesquicentennial Celebration. He made two attempts to implement a student bill of rights and make the College part of the American Student Government Association, which would have provided networking for the College. His attempts resulted in failure because of some opposition within the organization, he said.
Khoury also said his role last year as president of Uni?n Latina helped him to “acquire leadership through different experiences.”
SGA’s Constitution says any member can be impeached for reasons such as violating the Constitution or bylaws, as long as the action receives a 2/3 majority vote.”
The resolutions presented on Oct. 20 have been criticized by a number of students within the SGA as well as students from the greater campus community.
“I think that the students as a whole should have greater say, because we were the ones who elected (Khoury) into the presidency,” Sharlene Sanidad, sophomore psychology major, said. “I don’t believe a lot of clear feedback was given,” Mantetas said. “No one had come to me to utilize my role in communicating.”
Whitesell questions the surprised reaction to the resolutions.
“There are conflicting reports whether anyone approached (Khoury) … there are several SGA members who swear that Pedro has been approached, and that (Mantetas) was present,” Whitesell said.
Paul Harris, Black Student Union (BSU) trustee, in an official address to SGA, called the coalitions within the organization “treason to the highest degree.” He said these individuals use manipulation for political gain, and called for their resignation.
Whitesell, a sponsor for the resolutions, said he had nothing to gain, adding that people might have voted against the resolutions at the Oct. 27 meeting because of the aggressive audience. He said people shouted “coward” to SGA members, and refusing to leave the meeting. “That is not democracy,” he said.
Manetas called the resolutions very stressful. “What came out of it positive was the way Pedro handled it,” she said, adding that the resolutions provided an excellent opportunity to re-examine SGA’s purpose.
-Jenna Lerro and Brigid Mara