Student Government exists to be the voice for students, advocating for student interest, representing their views to the Administration. While the interest of the Administration and students often align, there are times when they diverge. Case in point – the Administration may have a preferred candidate for specific elected student positions, who is more wiling to toe the Administration line,in contradiction of student opinion and thought. In order to ensure students are adequately represented, in a student-centered manner, student government serves that purpose. In essence, we as student government speak truth to power.
That is why it is imperative for the Administration of any institution of higher education to be as hands off from the processes of student government as possible. In order for students to trust their elected representatives, the administration cannot and should not be seen as meddling in student government affairs. Otherwise, we look like puppets or mouthpieces of an, at times, competing constituency.
To this end, the Graduate and Professional Student Council (GPSC) updated Student Trustee Election Guidelines that put the power of appeals for said elections in the hands of students, not Administrators. When the Undergraduate Student Government leadership and senior officials in the Office of Student Affairs rejected this concept, GPSC agreed to a compromise that would transfer appeal authority to representatives from Faculty Senate and Graduate Council, bodies that would be seen as neutral between the undergraduate and graduate/professional student constituencies.
On Tuesday, the chairs of Graduate Council and Faculty Senate agreed that representatives from their respective bodies would serve in an appeal capacity for Student Trustee Elections and was communicated to all parties earlier today. In spite of this development, the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs chose to unilaterally upend the reasonable compromise between the Administration, GPSC, and USG. In a message sent to the GPSC President, VC Stettler claimed supreme authority to override the workings of student government and decided to approve drafted, not yet agreed to guidelines that would normally need approval from the heads of both student government bodies at SIU Carbondale.
Such a power grab is exactly the behavior we hope students would not model in the real world. This, in light of the fact that GPSC met with VC Stettler prior to Spring Break to get the revised guidelines approved in a timely manner. The Vice Chancellor’s rationale, “Time is of the essence,” falls flat given the effort of GPSC to produce guidelines that represent the best interest of students broadly, regardless of their classification at the beginning of March.
GPSC will not participate in a process that does not represent our constituency and will not recognize a Student Trustee that is selected from the aforementioned process. We firmly believe these actions violate state law and the Board of Trustees’ Charter requiring the election of a student trustee through a campus-wide, STUDENT-led and driven election. The actions taken by VC Stettler are in contradiction with what the Carbondale campus has long established qualifies as a campus-wide student election. We ask the Administration to stand down, allow student government to do its work, and run a student trustee election that we all can be proud of with procedures made by and for students. The Administration’s unwillingness to do so represents tyranny and such action will not go quietly into the night.
From the Executive Officers of the Graduate and Professional Student Council