Opinion: SA Should Not Take a Stance on Political Issues
Imagine you are at school and there is a controversial political issue all over the news. You feel strongly about it one way, but do not want to think about it while you go to class so you can focus on school work. Then, you receive an email from Student Association (SA) saying they support the other side of the issue. Not only that, but they make a statement belittling your opinion on the issue. You would want SA to stay out of it, after all, their job is to serve students, not to promote certain political opinions.
What if the Student Association supported a policy you disagree with? This may not be the case with their recent condemnation of the Trump Administration’s decision to repeal the Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). What if there was a pro-Trump majority in SA? Them taking a position on any issue is a problem for several reasons. There is no guarantee that the SA will always support the side you agree with; taking a political stance inhibits them from being representative of all students, and they must remain impartial to represent all students. In doing so, they foster a diverse environment in the pursuit of broadening students’ education.
According to the Student Association website, “Student Association is representative of, and responsible to, all student activity fee paying students.” Every student paying for tuition at UAlbany pays a student activity fee to fund SA, student groups, Dippikill and other student services. There are roughly 17,000 undergraduate and graduate students here at UAlbany. Unless every single one of those 17,000 students paying the student activity fee agrees on a policy, SA does not have the consent of the students to take a stand on any political issue. They cannot represent every student if they become politically partisan. SA takes school funds and is in charge of funding student groups in a fair impartial manner. However, taking stances on political issues of any kind may reveal bias when funding student groups. If the SA president was pro-life, it would be wrong of them to use SA as a platform to promote pro-life causes and withhold funding for pro-choice student groups. The same would be true no matter what ideology the president has.
UAlbany, as well as the Student Association, are committed to student’s education and promoting diversity. SA’s mission statement reads: “Student Association strives to include and accept a diverse community and is committed to enriching the student experience with recreation, education and fun.” College is supposed to be a place in which individuals can exchange ideas freely and learn from a diverse amount of opinions. By taking a stance on political issues, SA is in effect promoting singularized thinking and being anti-diversity. Diversity of culture and opinion are vital to a successful campus. However, UAlbany is not a place of diverse opinions. It is no secret that UAlbany is politically left leaning, and it’s rare for students to hear anyone’s opinion who is to the right of Bernie Sanders. I have spoken to countless individuals who tell me they are afraid to voice their opinion because they fear backlash from the university and their peers. SA should take the lead in promoting impartiality, and an environment where students can express their opinion without having to worry about the university and SA disagreeing with them and being ostracized.
Individuals have the right to and should take a stand on issues. SA is there to serve everyone, and when they take a stance, it limits the students it serves. No one wants SA to support something they feel strongly against. They may support what you do now, but that may not always be the case. SA should remain impartial and let students make up their own minds about politics. When only one side of an issue is presented, it is the students’ loss because they are not being exposed to different ideologies and views. SA performs so many important roles on campus, and being politically biased is not one of them. It detracts from the other duties they have. SA should prioritize their goals of representing every student, distributing activity funds, and fostering a diverse campus environment conducive to education while staying out of politics.