Opinion: It’s Time to Grow Up, SA

Jordan Shelton-Greene

Last week, after concluding a semester-long investigation on the relationship between the Student Association of Southwestern Adventist University and its students, the 2016-2017 Reporting III class was asked by James The, vice president of student services, to hold an assembly sharing our findings. As part of our investigation, my classmate Herman Aguilar and I interviewed both students and SA officials from the past and present, finding the common themes of apathy, misdirection, and lack of accountability. The assembly was structured so that after a brief presentation of the finding, we invited a panel of SA officers and sponsors to answer questions about what officers and students alike could do to improve the overall efficiency and betterment of the school.

During the panel discussion, however, the answers and responses of the SA officers were sorely lacking. Despite our countless reiterations that this was a investigative study of the system as a whole, the SA representatives seemed to take it as a personal attack and answer our questions in kind. When asked simple questions, we were met with defensive answers that had little to do with what had been asked. Worse still, where our investigation had found that both parties acknowledged a disconnect with each other, the attitude portrayed by the panel was that of condescension and indifference. Instead of offering solutions that involve both parties, what we were given were excuses, rationalization, and a finger-pointing blame game. The officers and sponsors put the blame on the student body for not being engaging enough and cast them in a light of whiney children instead of intelligent adults.

Again, the purpose of this investigation was to examine the system of the Student Association on campus, not to single out SA officers for scrutiny and ridicule. We conducted our interviews and asked our questions in the good faith that we were receiving honest, sincere answers. Yet when the moment came for our SA officers to respond to some of the most important questions about issues on campus, the answers seemed to change from “We need to do better” to “YOU GUYS need to do better.”

Overall, however, I feel that both the investigation and the assembly was a success. It brought things to the table that had been only talked in whispers and behind closed doors. It allowed student to see and hear from their SA officers on hot button issues, and has opened that door for more of this type of investigative work in the future. One thing was said at the panel that I believe rings true: if there is something wrong with the SA, then there is something wrong with the student body. I’d like to remind the SA officers serving Southwestern that that statement goes both ways: You were elected into this position by the students. That means that you chose to give up part of your schooling time to serve the student body. You were voted in on the premise that you wanted to make a difference in the academic, social, and spiritual growth of Southwestern. There is more to being in an SA office than it being a title, a popularity contest, or a bullet point to put on one’s resume.

To be a leader in the student government means just that: to lead. Just as in real life, there are no excused when a leader fails or falters. A leader takes credit for their failures as well as for their successes. It seems very obvious to me that accountability is still a big issue for SA officers and students alike. We clamor so much about how our academies and universities do not prepare us for the real world. Well, this is the real world. Being accountable is the real world. Being responsible is the real world. It’s high time we started being real too.    

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