The Undergraduate Student Government’s swift and premeditated legislation in the closure of SBU-TV is representative of the way the recent administration has operated for the past year, for better and more importantly for worse.
It’s clear that the television station had very little viewership, primarily based on the lack of programming and shows broadcast on channel 20. The $35,000 to run the station could very well be easily put to better use, considering again the poor presence SBU-TV had.
Which is why when USG moved to pass the SBU-TV Reformation Act, it really came as no surprise that the act passed 12 to five, with two abstentions. It passed with one vote more than the 2/3 majority required.
What’s alarming isn’t that this defined quasi-agency of USG was taken over, it is the manner in which things were done that leaves USG with yet another black eye. The events that occurred leading up to, during and after the whole closure of SBU-TV could very well be the ugliest display of power exhibited by this current USG administration.
It started one weeknight a few days prior to Thursday’s meeting, when President Matt Graham and Student Programming Agency Director Moiz Khan confronted members of SBU-TV and demanded that they hand over the keys to SBU-TV’s suites.
The fear was that, as in the past, equipment from the station, which amounts to a few hundred thousand dollars worth of assets, could be stolen. Thus, USG sought to preserve its assets by first demanding the keys to the suite. President Graham, a college senior, went as far to say that he was declaring an executive order for the two members of SBU-TV to hand over their keys. The locks were soon changed.
The days that led up to the act being brought before the Senate quite possibly showcased the most disgusting display of power yet. Vice President of Communications David Mazza paid members of the USG Street Team to sit in front of SBU-TV’s office, with a walkie-talkie in hand, to monitor the activity in the office and ensure that no equipment was taken. Each member was paid $10 per hour.
The initial act failed to be brought up during the Senate’s Executive Budget meeting so USG members, including Khan, Graham and Mazza, went out of their way to garner enough petition signatures to bring the proposal to the Senate floor.
When brought up, the debate on the matter lasted long enough to push the Senate meeting past its two-hour limit. The meeting finally wrapped up more than a half-hour past 9 p.m.
As senators and attendees walked out of the Wang Center meeting that evening, President Graham, who pleaded with the building’s custodial staff to allow them to stay longer, was seen thanking one of the workers and letting him know that he was “doing a service to all the students.”
More than a week later, SBU-TV’s feed still runs but USG has yet to come out and say what the next step for SBU-TV will be. While USG appeared very eager to come in and defund SBU-TV’s operations, it’s clear that very little planning went into the next step. It’s this sort of planning that is necessary before actions like defunding an organization, even if it’s a quasi-agency of USG, are taken.
Backtrack to the reformation of SAB, or the failure of last semester’s sudden election to raise the activity fee an additional $5.75 to $100, and it’s clear that one of USG’s biggest failures is its inability to communicate and hold a dialogue.
Sure, they can advertise highly priced events—mainly because the artists sell themselves—but when it comes to interacting with their own constituents, USG has failed time and time again. It’s scary to think that a few members of USG can get enough students to sign a petition and propose to cut an organization’s budget and where it seems the USG Senators are heavily influenced and often rubberstamp the decisions made by figures like Khan and Graham.
But it’s also pathetic that students who are paid weekly stipends to represent all students and their interest are so easily swayed and apathetic. At each USG meeting, you will have only a handful of senators question, debate and challenge what is being proposed. The majority sit in a zombie-like fashion and vote in favor of anything that comes their way.
One can point to the likes of President Graham, SPA Director Khan and VP of Communications Mazza as the ones responsible for the closure of SBU-TV. Whether the decision was right or wrong, the fact of the matter is that people like Khan and Graham can continue to pass legislation, however controversial, and be virtually unchecked by such a useless student Senate.
The manner in which USG handled the whole SBU-TV situation should be an eye-opening reminder that there are clear problems with communication between students and their government. It’s something that should very well be remembered come time for elections because the sorry sack of Senators that currently crowd around each Thursday were voted in largely because of you.