Letter from the editor: SA’s tainted reputation won’t be undone until it’s held accountable

No matter your opinion on the recent Student Association senate chair election controversy, one thing is clear: there was failure on multiple levels.

SA President Minahil Khan’s failure to accurately follow the SA constitution and bylaws regarding elections.

SA professional staff’s failure to provide Khan with proper guidance.

And the entire organization’s failure to fix a system where precedent comes before the written constitution and bylaws and failure to adequately prepare its senators to make decisions on a $4 million budget of student funds.

As a reporter who sat through the questionable senate chair election and spent four days speaking with more than 10 SA members both past and present, I can confidently say to our readers this situation is not something to be taken lightly. It’s kind of scary.

Through Khan’s actions that SA’s own attorney admits went against the constitution – from not allowing a senator to vote for being late to breaking a 7-7 tie with her own vote – Yaser Soliman lost out on becoming senate chair.

Senators revealed to me they were unprepared for not only the procedure of the chair election, but for their role as senators itself. Their only training to make decisions on a multimillion-dollar budget was a 30-minute meeting in which they were told to read the constitution themselves.

So when a club walks into that next senate meeting and asks for $1,000, what judgment are our senators using to say yes or no?

Their best guess? Their gut?

While no student money was directly mishandled or lost Wednesday night, we’ve seen what a lack of protocol, oversight and knowledge can lead to.

Nick Johns resigned as president less than a month into the fall 2013 semester for allegedly mishandling funds, harassment and other offenses. Former Treasurer Sikander Khan allegedly tried to steal $297,000 of student money in the spring of 2012. It seems no matter what year it is and who comes into the organization, we as a newspaper are always forced to put SA on the front cover for its various scandals or wrongdoing.

A precedent has been set. A reputation established.

So when SA can’t get through a senate chair election following its own procedures properly – that’s telling. That’s alarming.

Because if SA can’t follow simple procedure, how do we know they’re doing the big things correctly?

At this point, we cannot.

The only way SA gets rid of that stigma is by setting procedure, holding itself to strict guidelines and educating its staff before day one. When we as the student body begin to see that SA can get through an election without a scandal, when we see SA members are educated on and follow those procedures, that’s when SA will slowly begin to earn back its students’ trust.

That’s when it will stay off The Spectrum front page for negative reasons.

Some people may say, it’s only student government.

But that’s exactly the issue.

SA is run by students and for students, and we are doing this disservice to each other. If we as students can’t trust each other to do things the right way, from appropriately handling funds to running a senate chair election properly, how do we ever expect to keep those in the university’s administration in line?

And yes, we have to scrutinize all of the departments that can dip their hand into our tuition dollars through fees, from Transportation and Parking to UB Athletics. Not just SA.

But if we as students can’t appropriately govern our own interests, financial or otherwise, how do we turn around and hold those in the administration – those who control the big dollars and make decision on our education that have much more far-reaching implications than deciding a Fall Fest artist – accountable?

We have to start with each other.

Tom Dinki is the editor in chief and can be reached at tom.dinki@ubspectrum.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tomdinki.