Student Government Association discusses conflicts of interest among student organizations

Last week the Student Government Association came out with revisions to the undergraduate student body constitution and specifically ruled out conflicts of interest in positions on campus. Meetings and discussions held by the SGA senators have been going on for a while now. The real hot button topic was the conflict of interest between members of ResLife and SGA senators.

Liliana Diaz, a senator for the class of 2017, said, “The one position we had the most discussion on was ResLife. Whether you could be an RM or RA and still hold a senator position. It was very split.”

With a fine line between various positions on campus, Diaz noted how important it is to maintain the division between the university and students, particularly with student interests, restricting the amount of power students can have.

“In the end we did see that it was a conflict of interest because a lot of people were saying that you wouldn’t want your RM- an employee of Trinity University, and they would have to support the rules and you wouldn’t want your RM to get you in trouble but then again if you’re an SGA senator you’re representing the students,” Diaz said. “So there was that fine line of, you don’t want that person to have to much power. You can’t be on the school’s side and on the students’ side.”

Eventually coming to a general consensus, SGA passed the revision that now states in section six of the constitution. “In order to minimize conflicts of interest, no undergraduate student may occupy the following combinations of positions concurrently”¦ Student Government Association officeholder and Residential Life Staff member.”

The main purpose of the revision was to clarify unnecessary conflicts of interest previously ruled out in the constitution.

Evan Lewis, SGA president, said, “It’s actually nothing brand -new in the constitution. The constitution had that conflict of interest segment as far as I can recall.”

The process involved gathering up members of SGA to go back over the constitution itself, making sure to find any conflicts within.

“We edit the constitution. I’m on the rules and oversight committee,” Diaz said.

Diaz noted that SGA had to look through all the various positions on campus and see which ones could possibly conflict with the others.

“So we had to go through and we had to look at the various, the most powerful positions on campus- regarding the Mirage, the Trinitonian, ResLife, Student Conduct Board and Honor Council and then we had to see which ones conflicted with positions in SGA,” Diaz said.

Diaz noted that SGA spoke to many current members of the positions, to better understand any potential conflicts that could arise.

“So we spoke to a lot of the people who were already in those positions and asked them their opinion and if they felt like their position would conflict with being a senator,” Diaz said.

Lewis also noted that this section of the constitution was previously written in vague terms without specific ruling. This ambiguity created unclear guidlines on handling conflicting interests.

“We went ahead and clarified what the conflicts actually were, because it was written over broadly,” Lewis said. “I think they were written to intend to exclude certain positions from also serving on SGA. But it was written so broadly that it excluded certain positions from each other that it didn’t really make sense.”

The constitution itself is for the entire undergraduate student body, but is mostly dealt with by SGA members.

“To clarify, the constitution is not just the student government constitution; it’s the constitution of the Trinity University undergraduate student body. Most of it has to do with the structure of student government. It’s primarily concerned with SGA, but technically it’s not SGA’s constitution.” Said Lewis said.

With the edits the section in the Trinity University Undergraduate Body Constitution members of the Big Six may not overlap. The Big Six are: Conduct Board member, Academic Honor Council member, Trinitonian editor-in-chief, Mirage editor-in-chief, Residential Life Staff member, and president/chair/director of specific organizations on campus.