SA needs to find its soul; students need to get involved
Published: Sunday, September 22, 2013
Updated: Sunday, September 22, 2013 20:09
We would like to thank Nick Johns for finally choosing to resign. But that is the only thing that we, and the students, have to thank him for. The period of uncertainty regarding his future in SA has ended, and we are now in the process of revival. And with that, a whole new kind of uncertainty arises.
With the promise of a fresh start, a consideration of the historical context that has preceded this latest scandal would do more than just behoove the student body – it may alter the common attitude of indifference that pervades this university.
As it should.
In the words of Edmund Burke: “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” Certainly, no one affiliated with our university wants to see another $300,000 scandal. Certainly, no one wants to see someone as under qualified and irresponsible as Nick Johns threaten to destroy the integrity of our student government.
In his letters addressing the student body sent to The Spectrum in the midst of the recent impeachment proceedings, Johns seemed to be perplexingly disconnected from what has really been going on.
“I know I could have definitely beat all of these charges based on my strong evidence to refute these claims,” Johns wrote. “I also know that a prolonged conflict would create fundamentally irreparable fractures in the structure of the SA.”
The need to end this fiasco for the sake of allowing SA to restore itself to normalcy is obviously true. But what we don’t seem to understand is that if Johns had such “strong evidence” to “beat all of these claims,” why didn’t he present any of it to us when we gave him a chance?
When we had our interview with him, he barely defended himself. His most common response to our questions was a simple, “No comment.”
Moreover, he has never really taken responsibility for his actions. “I still fully deny all of the opposition’s claims against me,” he wrote, “as their claims are unsubstantiated and evidence circumstantial.”
We don’t understand – he did accept an expense-paid trip and sideline ticket to Ohio State (clearly a violation of the rules in the SA handbook); he did mishandle funds and lose SA money in a contract deal with the athletic department; he did remove the definition of harassment from the SA handbook.
He did all of these things. Period. We have the proof. How can he deny “all” of the claims? These claims are not circumstantial; they are concrete.
And he could not have beaten them. It seems that the real reason he resigned was his impeachment was imminent, and his prospect of prevailing was slim.
Johns’ letters to the student body are a complete joke, a reflection of his consistently criticized personality traits – self-indulgent, pompous, full of pride, motivated by disillusionment and shear hubris.
And the way he thanks his assistant, Marissa Malone: “Your faith in me has kept me going and has directly restored my faith in the fundamental goodness of humanity.”
Talk about delusions of grandeur…
Beyond Johns’ behavioral problems, it is more appropriate, and perhaps more justified, to analyze the nature of his (short-lived) abomination of a presidency.
From the very beginning, all signs indicated that he was neither ready nor qualified for the job. He was too young, lacked experience and demonstrated a maturity level unfit for a position of such responsibility.
Really, who shows up for what is essentially a job interview – The Spectrum’s endorsements – in a flag football uniform?
Nonetheless, he was whom the students elected and he had his chance to prove us wrong. But he didn’t. And one thing we want to call to the students’ attention is that in the last three years, the student body has voted against our endorsements.
We are SA’s watchdog. The Spectrum covers the student government throughout the year and we learn about the candidates more than anyone else. We try to increase awareness and keep the student body informed, but because the past five years in SA have been a disaster, it is time for a change. It is time for students to pay attention to our endorsements.
Students need to assert their power and make a difference in the outcome of the next election. They need to determine SA’s destiny, not allow SA insiders with their own agendas to do so.
Any outsider following this latest scandal would probably wonder more than anything, how did this Johns guy even get elected? We have been asking ourselves the same question.
Well, the answer is that not enough of the students participate in the election process. Only 14 percent voted last March, and that minority is comprised of mostly students who are involved with SA. They are all part of loyalties and coalitions. And it will take an outside voice to catapult the transformations the organization needs to make.
A common complaint during the last election was that students felt like they could vote for Carson Ciggia or the other guy. Nobody outside of SA really knew anything about Johns; and Ciggia came off as a bit over-the-top. Well intentioned and earnest, but seemingly overly enthusiastic – and he chose a polarizing and divisive figure as his running mate.
There was no perfect candidate, but what’s done is done. And now, it does the most good for us to look ahead.
SA is noted for its autonomy. The students who get elected to run it are in a remarkably empowering position. But with all the scandals in SA’s recent history, it seems fair to opine that it is time for some structural changes.
SA, by design, is an organization run for the students, by the students. It should stay that way. But there should be more oversight. It should establish a committee with some faculty advisers, community business leaders and elected officials. The students elected to the SA e-board clearly need some adult guidance.