Illinois Tech’s Student Government Association (SGA) violated its own constitution in a variety of ways during a meeting on August 22 that was not publicly announced, and from which no official notes were produced. Various TechNews staff members engaged with the organization’s members and leadership to understand what took place during the meeting and why it was kept private in nature.
By historic practice, SGA student senate meetings have been advertised through social media, and all students have been welcomed actively to participate in debate on the student advocacy topics considered by the senate. However, at the time of writing, SGA had not posted on its social media accounts since April of 2018, and physical posters produced recently by the group advertised an initial senate meeting date of September 12. This has left some longtime contributors to the organization wondering why an “invite-only” meeting was held on August 22 with no accompanying announcement. One TechNews writer, a former SGA senator himself, was the only member of TechNews informed of the meeting, and was told about it after the proceedings had already started. Only a small group of senators, approximately half a dozen in number, was present at the meeting along with SGA’s executive board.
Reached for comment, executive board members explained that the purpose of the meeting was to pass amendments to the organization’s constitution, an act that is only legal if all senators are given the full text of the proposed changes at least seven days in advance and if the vote occurs at a regular senate meeting. Since this meeting was not part of a published schedule, it does not qualify as a regular senate meeting under Section 4.8 of the SGA constitution. Since even the attendees of the meeting were not provided the amendment text with any significant time to review, no votes could have constitutionally been held even if the event had met the criteria for regular senate meetings.
SGA has often had trouble smoothly starting each new academic year, and most observers spoken to by TechNews concluded that this meeting’s abnormalities likely stem from an inexperienced executive board rather than from intentional secrecy. However, with no public records produced on the night of August 22, it took multiple on-the-record conversations with SGA executive board members to gain any information at all about the meeting and the amendment debates contained within. The day after the meeting, an introductory email was sent to an SGA membership interest list that made no mention of the activities of the night before. As new senator nominations come to a close at the end of August, the organization’s ability to carry out its mission effectively may be hampered by a seemingly poor internal understanding of its own rules and norms of public operation.