Once a month, the Student Government Association holds a university-wide meeting between all six campuses at Georgia State. In a normal meeting, a speaker from the university would speak to the body about general updates and then normal business is conducted. Bills are discussed and voted on and we move on with our lives.
But, of course, this is SGA — normal meetings are a rarity.
After Nancy Kropf, the dean of Perimeter College, left the floor, a small confusion among the Decatur, Newton and Alpharetta senates led to sparks flying. The three campuses were all on the Alpharetta campus attending the meeting through Webex, which is normally fine. However, per the SGA Bylaws, the ruleset that governs the body, both the host executive vice president and the university-wide president must be informed 24 hours in advance.
According to Alpharetta Executive Vice President Chase Ritterbusch, he received the email but University-Wide President Jazmin Mejia said that she did not; therefore, the senators from both Newton and Decatur could not vote or speak as members of the body.
This simple mistake dealt a massive blow to the senates. They all met up at the Alpharetta campus to make a point to the Atlanta senate: The university-wide meetings could be held on Perimeter campuses. While the point was made, it fell short as the senators could not vote.
When President Mejia attempted to move along down the agenda for the night, an unknown speaker shouted over Terry Fye, a Georgia State student, demanding that the student be silenced and they return to the previous discussion regarding the voting situation.
Once things seemed to have simmered down, the EVPs from each attending campus gave their reports. When President Mejia skipped over Decatur and Newton, arms were almost immediately thrown up.
Dawnyale Allen, a member of the Student Judicial Board, raised that the EVPs of the non-attending campuses could still give their reports per the president’s discretion, according to the Bylaws. President Mejia responded by saying “if the senators could not speak and vote, neither could the EVPs.”
To anyone else, this was a reasonable response, but to the Alpharetta Speaker of the Senate Asya McDonald, it was an “abuse of power.” To be frank, President Mejia would have been in the right, if the rule was applied across the board. After that, the meeting went downhill, including personal attacks on President Mejia’s professionality.
Decatur Executive Vice President Hadeija Manais went as far as to accuse her of being “emotional,” a statement that had many people in the room confused.
What should have been a simple and easy meeting turned into a catfight of name-calling and disrespectful attitudes all around. Perimeter students on the Atlanta campus made it crystal clear that the attacks against President Mejia did not come from Dunwoody or Clarkston but entirely from Decatur.
The next hour was spent throwing accusations at each point of the conflict. For the second meeting in a row, SGA was effectively shut down because of a stupid shouting match. As a former SGA member myself, I was extremely disappointed and embarrassed to witness the complete and utter disrespect to each other, to President Mejia, to the process and to the student body.
The conflict got so heated that Atlanta Speaker Kaelen Thomas, usually the voice of reason in these matters, demanded that Atlanta Executive Vice President Hamza Rahman apologize for using the rules to “silence” members of the body. That felt uneasy to many people. Whether EVP Rahman was actually doing this or not, for it to be demanded in such a disrespectful and public way was not the way to go about it.
However, let me be clear — the blame is not left up to only those on the Perimeter campuses. Atlanta senators were equally disrespectful.
Sen. Nigel Walton immediately dismissed any arguments made by Perimeter members, no matter how reasonable. He went as far as to leave early while people expressed their concerns, only to come back after roll call.
According to a number of people, Sen. Walton wants SJB member Allen removed for her “support” of Perimeter, which is both wrong and unconstitutional. Atlanta EVP Rahman even used the debate rules to push the agenda and move the debate, that just shows the lack of understanding by the Atlanta senate. They were far more concerned with ending the meeting than listening and understanding the other side.
President Mejia must have the patience of a saint because the divisions only grow even deeper despite her continual attempts to unify the body. As students who helped elect many of the people in that argument into office, we should be disgusted by the lack of productivity and show some shame for their disrespect.
Earlier this semester, The Signal wrote about why SGA fails and things like this are one of those reasons. They are far more concerned with personal fights than the welfare of the students. Without sweeping changes to the constitution and the bylaws, SGA will collapse into total irrelevance if it hasn’t already.
Editors Note: The article was updated at 1:38 p.m. to accurately reflect statements about EVP Rahman’s use of Roberts Rules.