Staff Editorial: Student Government State of the Union gala raises questions about organization’s programming
SG should focus on events with deeper impact on student body
The American University Student Government’s postponement of an event that was announced just over a week earlier is puzzling. The State of the Union gala, a new event that was described as similar to a smaller-scale Founder’s Day Ball, was pushed to mid-January. It’s unclear whether the new date will impact the Founder’s Day Ball, which is typically held in February.
The event, which was supposed to be held in the Katzen Arts Center, had a “cocktail attire” dress code. SG President Chyna Brodie’s reasoning behind postponement was accessibility issues due to this dress code; it’s unclear why SG could not change the dress code to be more accommodating, especially given that the gala was being held in a building on AU’s campus.
The existence of the gala alone lends itself to further questioning. SG’s spending decisions indicate a disconnect between what students want from student government, and what SG thinks students want. SG needs to ask itself, and students, whether balls and galas are the best use of the funds at their disposal. In 2019, AWOL reported a breakdown of SG spending, specifically things that seemed self-serving such as merchandise for KPU members. AUSG’s public budget for fall 2021 details similar transactions. It’s unclear what positive impact any of this spending has on the student body as a whole because of the existence of a similar event — the Founder’s Day Ball — months down the line. Adding another event on top of this, an entertainment-based event that is only accessible to 250 students, is a perplexing decision.
In fall 2019, SG launched the Student Involvement Fund which would award 20 students who are especially dedicated to campus organizations $500 each. Spending decisions like this have a real, clear and lasting impact on students’ lives. Exclusive annual events, while certainly glamorous marketing opportunities for AUSG and the University alike, have no lasting impact.
Other clubs and organizations on campus deal with out-of-date equipment or insufficient funds that force them to pay for events out-of-pocket. Increasing budgets for these organizations would do much more for students than hosting events that a mere fraction of the student body can attend. In 2019, The Eagle reported pressures from other organizations on campus, including the Residence Hall Association and Student Media Board — of which The Eagle is a member organization — to contribute to the Founders Budget. SG has a history of exploiting other groups on campus to bolster budgets for its own programming. If SG is going to take money away from organizations students care about and participate in, shouldn’t students have a say?
When announcing this event, Brodie mentioned that “a lot” of sophomores reached out to say they didn’t have a prom due to the pandemic, and she wanted this event to be “reminiscent” of that. It is not SG’s responsibility to make up for students’ lost high school experiences, especially in such an expensive manner. Fundamentally, students want a representative government that they trust and respect. SG should focus on delivering on students’ needs in a way that will benefit the student body as a whole, not just the 250 people who can secure prom attire for an event in Katzen.