Click here for updates on the evolving COVID-19 situation at Rice
Rice University’s Student Newspaper — Since 1916

Sunday, February 28, 2021 — Houston, TX 41°

Letter to the Editor: Who does the SA work for?

By Matthew Archibald     3/8/17 8:00am

There’s almost no denying this Student Association election has been a total disaster. From the alleged intervention of non-university affiliated political groups to the recent mudslinging between the two major presidential candidates, this campaign cycle has begun to look more like a scene from a Michael Moore documentary than a student government election. Some may believe the remedial actions the SA has taken in the past few weeks, the appeal of the election to the University Court and the reworking of SA bylaws to disallow third-party funding, solved these problems. This is simply not the case. The recent resignation of Director of Elections Taylan Tuncata is proof.

Let’s review past Rice elections. In 2014, the Student Association Elections Committee gave any student with a NetID access to the SA election ballot, allowing some alumni and graduate students to vote. University Court found the SA Elections Committee excluded a McMurtry College senior from voting and held non-transparent meetings about student campaigns. UCourt decided all three of these charges violated the SA constitution and ordered the SA to rehold the election. Despite this fiasco, no one on the SA Elections Committee was forced to resign.

So why did Taylan Tuncata resign? In his resignation letter, Taylan cited violations of Sections XII.B.4 and XII.A.3. of the SA constitution as the official reason for his stepping down. These sections describe ambiguous and vague regulations on balloting and voting eligibility. For instance, the constitution defines eligible voters as “members of the Student Association” and Student Association members as “all currently enrolled undergraduate students.” Is a student taking a semester off an enrolled undergraduate? Is a 50-year-old Houstonian taking a three-hour art class an undergraduate? These are hard questions to answer even by senior members of the SA administration. So why was Tuncata, a wide-eyed and excited First-Year Representative, forced to take the fall for vague policies overlooked by even senior members of the administration? It certainly does not sound like the culture of care. It sounds like leaders of the SA covering up their own mistakes by blaming an easy scapegoat.



My goal is not to defame the SA or any of the presidential candidates. I wish to underscore that it’s the SA’s duty to investigate and resolve any potential conflicts of interest and give all its members equal treatment especially in cases with precedents. Where in this case is the transparency and student engagement SA leaders constantly tout as their core principles? SA President Griffin Thomas has already denied allegations of favoritism towards write-in candidate and current SA External Vice President Hannah Todd, but if he sincerely means this, why does he not offer a better account of the events before the resignation of Tuncata? Why did presidential candidate Justin Onwenu allege that Thomas has a “vested interest” in giving Todd a chance at a full campaign by nullifying this election?

So, who does the SA work for? Does it work for the president and the elected administration? Does it work for only the senators and representatives who choose to closely follow presidential directive? I don’t know. I do know Taylan Tuncata was a dedicated and passionate member of the SA and the Rice community whose reputation was needlessly tarnished. No election is worth the defamation of a Rice student. No election is worth undermining democracy and basic human kindness. And what is especially clear is that the SA most definitely did not work for Taylan Tuncata.

Matthew Archibald, Will Rice College freshman



More from The Rice Thresher

OPINION 2/25/21 8:58pm
Scroll less, live more: My experience quitting social media

We’ve all heard that expression before: if it's not on social media, then it didn’t happen. It seems like nowadays we can’t do much for the fun or the joy of it without feeling that urge to take a picture or video, upload it to the web, and tag our friends in it. In trying times like these, we need to realize that number of likes and retweets aren’t a healthy measure of social affirmation. We need to consider taking a serious break from social media (maybe pick up a hobby) and re-examine our relationships with these platforms. 

OPINION 2/23/21 11:29pm
We should maintain and pursue an inclusive environment at Rice

Recently, I was looking through pictures from my freshman year and discovered something startling — they all depicted me as an unhappy and miserable student. Transferring to Rice was never part of my postsecondary education plans. In fact, like most students, I graduated high school with the expectation that I would spend only four years in college. My complex college journey has led me to realize how important it is for us as individuals and an institution to actively work towards maintaining our diverse student body and prioritizing inclusion. In light of Rice’s plan to expand its undergraduate enrollment, it is imperative that students educate themselves about student movements and hold the institution accountable for its actions and promises, paying closer attention to the “Down with Willy” protests, the work being done by the Task Force and the steps the university will take to attract new students while also meeting the needs of current students.


Comments

Please note All comments are eligible for publication by The Rice Thresher.