The Student Government Association at Suffolk University has seen a string of senators resign since the start of the spring semester.
Logan Casey, JD Conte (sports editor at the Suffolk Journal), Brain Le and Nathaly Lemus officially resigned from their SGA responsibilities on February 15, and Gerado Sanchez also submitted a resignation letter on Monday evening. Some were chairpersons of committees or acted as important spokespersons within the organization.
Prior to sending resignation letters, Le and Saenz missed at least three consecutive meetings, which violated the SGA’s bylaws.
SGA vice-chairman Stephen Rykola, who takes attendance at all meetings, said it was “disheartening” to see the number of absentees for some members starting to rise.
“With school and people coming back in person, some challenges have arisen with people who can’t be here, whether it’s internships, other conflicts or just getting out of their jobs in terms of willingness to dedicate their time fully to contributing to this student body,” said Rykola
Despite this, he added that it was important that students take time for themselves and that he sees the choice of former senators to resign as an opportunity to grow the organization.
Many senators and senators at large have risen to fill committee chairs following vacancies resulting from resignations.
During the February 10 session, Senator Katie Desmond was elected as the class lecturer for the class of 2023. Grace Kaine was approved as student affairs president during their February 3 session. These positions were previously held by Conte, as reported by The Journal.
Other committee chair resignations include Lemus, former chair of the diversity committee and class speaker for the Class of 2024, and Casey, former chair of the public relations committee as well as a judge on the Student Judicial Review Board.
Lemus was elected to the SGA as a freshman, first as a senator and later as a class lecturer. SGA was the first organization she joined on campus, back when meetings were being held virtually.
“I immediately felt welcome and made a few friends despite the online context,” she said.
However, Lemus said the environment at SGA quickly turned unhealthy.
“Especially in my first year, there were a lot of internal conflicts and ‘scandals’, and it was extremely exhausting to see such a polarized environment,” she said.
One of the factors that influenced Lemus’ decision to step down was her “experience as a woman of color in a leadership position,” she said.
“There were many moments in SGA where I felt like I wasn’t heard or seen. It was a very anxiety-provoking and frustrating experience for me,” Lemus said. “I think the environment of SGA eventually turned into something I didn’t want to be a part of and didn’t follow my values.”
SGA’s behavior conflicted with Lemus’ understanding of what the organization stood for, she said.
“SGA is about standing up for students and making Suffolk a better place for students and I believed in that,” Lemus said.
Lemus was the co-sponsor of the only resolution that passed the Senate during the fall semester. At their Dec. 2 meeting, the resolution called for the university to change the name of the October fall vacation to Indigenous Peoples Day.
Former Class of 2023 senator Brian Le echoed Lemus’s sentiments in his resignation letter, which was sent to SGA members on Feb. 4.
“While I was at SGA, there were a lot of issues of students in this organization arguing, arguing [sic]and display such unprofessional behavior towards each other, which resulted in the stagnation of the process for everyone to best assist the student body,” Le said.
Le resigned shortly before his scheduled absence hearing.
In a comment to the Journal, SGA President Angela El-Jazzar said involvement has taken a hit since the pandemic began.
“The decision students make to leave is normal for any organization and not unique to SGA. It’s important to remind ourselves that this has been a tough year to bounce back from being on zoom and working around this lingering pandemic. Being a senator or committee chair is overwhelming, and it’s not for everyone,” she said.
El-Jazzar encouraged students and senators who have concerns or criticisms with SGA to attend their meetings or notify the electronic board.
Casey, a former senator in the class of 2022, resigned after starting work as a sustainability intern for the campus facilities and planning department. He has been a member of the SGA since his second year.
Casey has served in a variety of important roles for the SGA during his tenure, including Chair of the Housing and Facilities Committee and Senator for Residence Life. He said that almost all of the disputes that have arisen in the SGA have been due to inconsistencies in the organization’s rules.
“I personally believe the SGA needs to reevaluate how we govern ourselves with our constitution and bylaws. These rules are a hodgepodge of contradictory paragraphs and misspellings that have been edited and revised many times over the past few years. Casey said.
He added that the rules were difficult for senators to access and had never been covered at the SGA retreats he had attended.
Follow Leo on Twitter @leowoods108