Over spring break, the Undergraduate Student Government faced its seventh resignation of the academic year in the form of Vice President of Academic Affairs Suleman Aleem. In what has become a routine for USG, none of the members who attended the April 10 senate meeting announced Aleem’s departure in any official capacity. Instead, USG announced that the form to run for a newly vacated seat was live and that students were welcome to apply. Aleem’s nameplate still sat on the table. Looking on was Mark Vilk, a representative senator elected just before spring break after the departure of Representative Sen. Tarak Chowdhury. It was Vilk’s first meeting.
As the tenure of the 2017-2018 USG reaches its final stretch, it is not hard to look around the room during these Tuesday night meetings and wonder: what is happening to USG? Almost half of the 19 members of the table are names that were not on the ballot last April. USG events still happen, but some, such as the controversial “Meme It!” event in which students created their own memes, or the expensive “Perfect Winter” party, have come under fire by students for being mishandled or ill-advised. The sleepy “USG Town Hall” that took place during the Fall 2017 semester — the only event of its kind USG has had this school year — gave insight into these events and some of the other issues the table was facing. But, most senators seemed disinterested or bored and few gave concrete answers to any questions asked.
USG has been largely mum on the resignation problem, a trend that began when its treasurer, Ehtasham Bhatti, resigned in October. This was quickly followed by the November resignation of Josue Mendez, who in part cited communication issues on the table as one of his reasons for resigning. Next came the triple resignations over CUNY’s winter break of representative senators Zakari Abubakar, Molly Bhuiyan and Michael Cherry. Then, early in March, Representative Sen. Chowdhury resigned, telling The Ticker that “…every meeting I just felt less and less comfortable at the table.”
Rise Baruch, the party that gained all but five seats in the last USG election and all but one seat on the senate table, ran on a platform that promised transparency, representation and unity. The hundreds of students who voted for members of Rise Baruch voted not just for the candidates, but also for the values they, as a party, represented. USG’s recent stumbles, including the aforementioned events and lack of explanation regarding the departures of seven USG members, puts the fulfillment of these goals in question. How can USG be transparent when USG representatives leave students in the dark about the reasons for their fellow senate members’ departures? How can students feel represented when USG organizes a Town Hall during which some USG members either come late, do not show up or do not seem to put an effort into answering students’ questions?
As the end nears for the tenure of the current USG, we hope that students will finally get an explanation for the resignations, along with a plan for the representatives to prevent another resignation from occurring this academic year.