Letter to the editor:
Student governments have been traditionally a platform that give students a legitimate voice and are a venue for personal development in involvement.
I am saddened to share with you that in its current state, here, at The Ohio State University, that is exactly what it is not. Two years ago when I came to Ohio State, I knew that student government was something that I wanted to get involved in. I wanted to help make things better and improve things on campus, and I wanted to do that immediately. Being someone who is interested in organizational framework, I thought there would be no place better for me in USG than the Judicial Panel, and I sent an email to Tyler Byrum, a former chief justice, and became a clerk. When I joined, there was coherence, competency and a level of civility and understanding between branches. Today, I am sorry to say that that is no longer true, and I am sorry that I ever sent that email to join what is now one of the most hostile and noncommunicative organizations I have been a part of. All of this, most recently, has been operating under the guise as the open voice of the student body. As a tuition-paying student, I am disappointed to say the least.
To all interested parties, I am more than happy to share what has happened, and I will do so freely, now that I am no longer a member of the organization. First of all in addressing the members of OSU Divest: there will be no special election. I already explained the political pressures that are at work, and they are indeed at work. Flatly, no one wanted to be responsible for taking OSU Divest’s initiative off of the ballot. But truthfully, many people — including those that have accused my actions of simply having a meeting to compromise a solution to a problem and suggesting action as unconstitutional — wanted to see the issue off of the ballot. I never allowed any pressure from them or from anyone else to sway any decision I rendered, but the student body deserves to know that there is much more at work in this organization than simply meets the eye.
Secondly, I would like to address those who have accused me or have ever accused me of not performing my duties as a justice. In any matter, myself and all of my fellow justices have done our job with the utmost integrity. Rather than straying away from making unpopular decisions, I did so and always maintained my honor in doing so. No one in the Judicial Panel is power-hungry, we aren’t subject to political pressures and we have never tried to give ourselves authority that we did not honestly believe that we truly had. In fact, former Chief Justice Brandon Cruz, in agreement with the vice president of the organization, issued a resolution to place a check on ourselves seeing that we could not hold a hearing to settle the brief filed against us. This resolution would have reversed our decision to limit the signature count on initiative petitions, and put claims of unconstitutionality to bed, and the vice president was supposed to introduce this to the General Assembly. In doing this, it would have also not allowed OSU Divest to appear on the ballot, and pressure surrounding all sides of that issue was perhaps too great for the agreed introduction to the General Assembly. Anyone in General Assembly would know that that resolution was never introduced to them and because of the resolution not being sent, the Judicial Panel was bound in constitutional limbo.
With all of this being said, I really do hope and believe that the incoming body of executive leaders and legislative leaders can make the changes that are necessary to ensure that previous missteps caused by defense of optics rather than adherence to position descriptions will do so, and I truly believe they will. I also hope that they unify the organization, and restore it to a welcoming and open place, rather than a seemingly hostile and advantageous one. It has been so sad to watch friends and acquaintances turn into enemies and accusers, especially at this level. I have experienced no more stress at any time at this university (I’ve been a student since 2011) than in dealing with matters regarding student government this year. That is not the experience that students sign up for. That is detrimental and not developmental. Please, future leaders, restore it to its place as a developmental experience.
To current and future leadership, I recommend the following:
1. Always send out resolutions and disclose relevant information.
2. Maintaining your image is never as important as maintaining your integrity.
3. There are faces and individuals that are affected by press releases.
4. In advocating for mental health, it is important to assess your own actions to ensure that you always embody the behaviors of an advocate, and foster an environment that upholds this at all times.
5. Sometimes a face-to-face conversation is more effective than a press release or not communicating at all.
6. Consider asking for all sides of a story before retelling information that is not fully known.
7. Your justices are in the organization too. Maybe try to get to know them, and invite them to your social functions, date parties and retreats. Also just try talking to them if you have a problem.
8. The Judicial Panel exists not only during elections season, but during the rest of the academic year as well.
9. Past members of this and any organization provide helpful insight to current members. Consider reaching out to them when you need help.
10. Consider how actions might affect someone’s reputation.
11. Please don’t take actions that would make someone who wanted so badly to join an organization want to leave it just as badly.
12. Impeachment is no light process. That is someone’s reputation and someone’s integrity being called into question. Consider a censure, or a conversation.
13. Remember that we exist as a courtesy of the university and as a representation of all and not just some students.
Lastly, I see that there have been so many errors and so much at play, that I cannot in good conscience sit back and watch it continue. To do this, I am forming the Student Government Review Board, an independent body free from political and social pressures that will serve as a means for students to make USG work for them as it should be. This body will investigate errors and file relevant briefs, including a few briefs that will be filed by myself very soon. It will also exist to aid other organizations and individuals unfamiliar with the nature and policies of USG in the processes that they are attempting to engage in. Anyone interested in joining or utilizing my services may do so by emailing me. I have also heard a clear call from students this year that outside student unfamiliarity with the elections bylaws and general processes within USG has led to a disappointing lack of ability to formally participate. Whether you’re a member of OSU Divest or the group Protect OSU — Vote NO on Issue 1, you deserve to participate in your student government.
It is long overdue that students had a chance to connect not only with the organization, but within. It is so evident that students have lost faith in all of USG, and that is in one word, disappointing. In an elections season with record turnout, it is sad that a significant amount of votes went to a campaign started on Yik Yak and Twitter as a joke. (We all love you Cardale and Zeke, and we would have been just as honored if you were president and VP.) But student governance is supposed to be a real, impactful, and check on university administration, which students are encouraged to take seriously. It’s evident that they just do not believe in student government anymore.
I hope to work with you all soon to see a much better day in USG, and I will not rest until I do see that day. I can find no better use and reapplication of my time than ensuring faith is restored, and if that has to happen from the outside rather than under constant fear on the inside, then so be it. I am very excited to see the great things that Abby Grossman and Abby Waidelich bring to the table, and to see a new day in student government, and I can’t wait to see new leadership restore USG to be a developmental and welcoming environment for its members, and to earn the student body’s faith in USG once again.
Former USG Justice
Second-year in public affairs