The purpose of any governing body should be to act as a voice for the population they serve, and we as students are no different.
However, when students feel apprehensive, even fearful, of speaking out against their student government, the issue justifies critical attention.
“The role of student government,” said Student Body President Richard Portwood, “is to represent our students and provide them with opportunity.”
While the ideal deserves admiration, it gains suspicion when several participants of the Black Student Union who were trying to create a fundraiser for Haiti this past year revert to silence when asked about the events that led to disappointment and frustration.
Former Black Student Union president Chris Bernard was contacted to understand the situation more fully. His response was, “I have two more semesters left. Let’s talk about it after I graduate.” The statement speaks volumes about fears of academic consequences and what students may feel if they have a quarrel or difference of opinion with student government.
“It was supposed to be a BSU event,” said Lycha Andrews, a member of the Black Student Union willing to comment.
“We were planning on working with other clubs and we called student government for support and they just ended up coming to one of our meetings and told us they were going to make all the decisions.”
As a result, opportunities to do more with the BSU went unaided.
Lycha adds that, “we didn’t even really end up doing anything we wanted to do.” Some of these BSU-proposed activities included a benefit concert and food sales.
While this particular act of student government is one example of student government having too much influence in the university, the fact that students are uneasy with voicing their disproval is tragic and unreasonable.
“Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s not helpful,” said Julian Smit an associate professor of college success studies.
Julian also added that the ethics of too much power within student government “is dependent upon the school.”
“Let your voice be heard,” says the mission banner that appears on the student government website, “and help make a difference on UVU’s campus.”
But what happens when every voice isn’t permitted to speak? The situation with the BSU is a good example.
Although the statement reflects good intentions, the fact that some, even if it’s a few, are concerned with how student government can influence their academic career for the worse is a frightening and an unjust concept.
More information on what exactly happened with the Haiti Fundraiser and BSU is hard to come by as students hope to avoid any trouble with student government, but that says something.
“Students have no reason to be afraid of us,” says Nephi Acosta, a member of student government. “We don’t have any means of coercion against any student.”
If such is the case, then we insist student government tells the student population that here, our voice is heard with no personal academic consequence – regardless of whom it puts down.