Photo courtesy Chris Brown
For every three students who voted for the Brown-Nobile slate in this year’s Student Government Association election, two students voted no confidence.
Earlier this semester, the Student Government Association, or SGA, added an official abstain ballot option to give students a choice apart from no confidence and the slate. The 40 percent no confidence vote in this year’s uncontested election, however, represents an increase of 14 percentage points since last year, suggesting that the image of SGA is still tainted by what students say is a lack of transparency.
Liam Fink, a first-year computer science and information science combined major, said he voted no confidence after talking to friends whose club funding was cut by SGA while it was still providing stipends to its executive board.
“My main concern was just the amount of money going towards the SGA that was — not directly, but in a sense — being taken from these other clubs,” Fink said. “I just thought it wasn’t fair seeing them pulling in money for themselves rather than it going to the clubs that they’re there for.”
Fink said he heard about SGA cutting their stipends by the time he voted but had not followed the story enough to change his opinion. Most of his information about SGA, he said, came from sources that were critical of its activity. When he started researching the organization on the Reddit community for NU students, for example, many posts and users were “very anti-SGA.”
Gabby Nobile, SGA executive vice president-elect, said a lot of this disapproval comes from a lack of understanding about the group’s purpose.
“It isn’t a politics club,” she said. “If you want to join a politics club, you join College Republicans or [College Democrats].”
Nobile said she was frustrated when she saw a Reddit user calling for the creation of a “student union” to voice student opinion to the university.
“That’s literally what we’re supposed to be,” Nobile said.
Jeremy Paton, a first-year physics major, said that when myNortheastern prompted him to vote, he made his decision to vote for the Brown-Nobile slate without thinking. He said he just wanted to get past the pop-up to register for classes as quickly as possible, which gave him little time to find information about candidates. Because SGA had not reached out to him with information, he went with his gut. Paton said he thinks this attitude was shared by voters on both sides.
“I shouldn’t have to vote on it, because I don’t know anything, really, about it,” Paton said. “The amount of people who probably just clicked one option either way, not really knowing about it, just to skip the screen — that’s not really going to give you the best outcome.”
Fink said SGA officials need to be more transparent about the organization’s projects to win over uninformed voters.
“If the SGA had been releasing stuff that they had been doing, so that I could see the potential positive … it could have switched my vote,” he said. “There’s always two sides to a story, but right now, there’s only really information on one of them.”
SGA president-elect Chris Brown said one of his main goals for the next year is broadening outreach efforts. He said he will support an initiative by Erykah Kangbeya, the newly elected VP of student affairs, to send SGA members to meet with underrepresented student groups. He also said he plans to hold public town halls, create an SGA newsletter and increase awareness about public senate meetings.
“A lot of people feel like, right now, SGA is very secretive,” Brown said. “We want to have our meetings open more to students at large.”
Correction: This article previously listed the idea to meet with underrepresented clubs as Chris Brown’s. It was actually Erykah Kangbeya, the newly elected VP of student affairs, who campaigned on this idea.