Perimeter reached for more power tonight, and they fell flat — again.
Nine representatives led a legislative effort that would’ve boosted Perimeter’s representation within the Student Government Association University-wide Senate from 33% to 48%, a brazen attempt for more influence and leverage despite a largely stagnant legislative session.
Alpharetta Sen. Margaux Abella, supported by a nine-person coalition, introduced on Nov. 14 a special order calling for a constitutional amendment to be placed on the spring general election ballot.
This amendment would’ve caused the entire restructuring of the University-wide Senate, grossly limiting the number of voting member seats in pursuit of what Perimeter representatives call “fair representation.”
As it stands, the University-wide Senate holds 46 seats which are apportioned to each college within the university based on the previous year’s fall enrollment.
Interestingly enough, Perimeter College maintains the largest single-college representation in the Senate — ahead of the College of Arts and Sciences by two seats. After all, Perimeter College’s enrollment in fall 2018 was 18,464 and CAS enrollment was 13,978. All other colleges fell far below that level of enrollment last year.
THE SPECIAL ORDER
Abella’s proposed special order was sponsored by a broad coalition of Alpharetta and Decatur representatives, including both vice presidents, both speakers and four senators.
Every Decatur representative who sponsored this order previously supported the contentious bill that called for the monthly University-wide Senate to rotate among each of Georgia State’s six campuses. It was shot down in September due to a noticeable lack of research justifying the bill.
The Nov. 14 order called for the University-wide Senate to remain at 46 seats — but limit the number of voting seats to 31. Abella and crew recommended that the number of seats for Downtown campus senators should be capped at 16, leaving Perimeter to fill the remaining 15.
The legislation sought to boost Perimeter’s voting power by 15% in order to ensure “fair and impartial representation for all six campuses” within the University-wide Senate.
Considering that Perimeter still maintains a collegiate majority in the Senate, the irony that Perimeter senators are actually lamenting their lack of representation within the University-wide Senate is palpable.
But it appears Perimeter representatives do not care for their collegiate majority in the Senate. Instead, Perimeter representatives seek geographical representation, as they feel sidelined by the dominant majority of university-wide senators who hail from the Downtown campus.
Indeed, the Downtown campus represents 66% — nearly double that of all Perimeter campuses combined — of the University-wide Senate.
To many Perimeter representatives, this seems egregious. Until you realize the Downtown campus enrolls nearly double the number of students as the Perimeter campuses do combined. Fall 2018 enrollment for the Downtown campus was 34,284, whereas Perimeter enrollment was just 18,464.
So, what exactly is unfair here? We know that University-wide Senate seats are allocated based on enrollment, and we know that the Downtown campus maintains a significant majority of enrollment within Georgia State.
We also know that Perimeter College maintains the largest collegiate majority within the University-wide Senate. So, why do they want more power?
We should be clear in recognizing that Abella’s special order is a dishonest reach for more power within the University-wide Senate. She and the Alpharetta-Decatur coalition are attempting to artificially — and unjustly — inflate Perimeter’s representation within the Senate.
THE “HOUSE OF REPS” ARGUMENT
There’s a prevailing argument among some of the same Perimeter representatives that the University-wide Senate operates more like a House of Representatives than a Senate.
This is true. The U.S. House of Representatives maintains 435 voting members, as fixed by law. Similarly, the University-wide Senate maintains 46 voting members, as fixed by the SGA Constitution. The U.S. House of Representatives apportions their seats by population, just as the University-wide Senate apportions their seats by enrollment.
As Perimeter representatives have grumbled about their existing “unfair” representation, they’ve called for the University-wide Senate to better reflect the true meaning of a senate.
So, let’s entertain the idea of completely restructuring the University-wide Senate so that it operates more like one. If you were to appoint two senators per campus or college to the University-wide Senate, you would have 13 distinct delegations:
It turns out this argument doesn’t bode well for Perimeter either. Yes, Perimeter’s representation within the Senate slides up from 33% to 39%, but that’s still a stark minority compared to Downtown’s.
In this proposed model, the only solution to boosting Perimeter’s representation would be to create more Perimeter campuses, or create more colleges on the existing Perimeter campuses. Neither of those seem very feasible, do they?
And in the current model, of which I am a fan, the only solution to boosting Perimeter’s representation is one that simply can’t be manipulated: their enrollment must increase.
It thus is only fair — to use the verbiage of the Perimeter representatives — that the Downtown campus maintain a significant majority as it stands.
ALL FOR NAUGHT
The most disappointingly amusing fact amid these discussions is that Perimeter representatives fail to adequately represent their constituents already, which makes their argument for more power and leverage laughable.
They hope for more voting power in the University-wide Senate, yet they introduce no meaningful legislation to the Senate. Of the 10 articles of legislation introduced to the University-wide Senate this session, five of them were rudimentary seating bills.
And of the articles introduced by Perimeter representatives, none of them discussed or called for change for their constituents.
If Perimeter representatives were more productive members of the Senate, their argument for a “true” Senate model would be more palatable. Yet as it stands, there is no reason to support this legislation aside from the desire to make Perimeter representatives feel better about themselves.
Sen. Abella’s special order was ultimately routed to the Bylaws Committee for review in a 25-3 vote. I can only hope that the members of that committee recognize the baseless argument for more voting power that, even if it were supported by the University-wide Senate, would ultimately be voted down by the students on the spring ballot.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated on Nov. 15 at 1:03 a.m. to provide more context on the legislation introduced.