The Perspective editorial board interviewed both candidates for the SGA presidency about a week and a half before Olaniyi Solebo, the current Senator of Legal and Governmental Affairs, was handily elected to that office by a margin of 58% to 41%. We congratulate him on the victory, but we also issue this warning: unlike in the past, our elected officials will be held accountable for their action or inaction. Next year, Mr. Solebo will not receive a free ride from The Perspective.
On why he sought perhaps the most influential student position on campus, Solebo said, “It’s not because I have some vision of grandeur… it’s not for my ego, it’s not for my resumé. It’s simply because I think I’m the right person to fight the fights worth fighting.”
Whether he will truly “fight those fights” remains to be seen, and his rhetoric may prove to be empty campaign-speak. We contemplated issuing an endorsement prior to the election, but our Board could not come to a unified decision; both candidates, Solebo and Senator of Administration and Finance Brian Block, demonstrated an aptitude for navigating the process of student government, and both are by all accounts genuine in their desire to do well for our campus. But it was not clear to us that either individual was truly interested in transforming the SGA into something more than an unresponsive, hazily-defined institution to which most students feel no real connection.
“I have to say, that’s crap,” Block said when he was asked why so many perceive SGA as ineffectual and rather pointless. Nevertheless, he recognized that most of us have little idea of the body’s actual duties or functions. But he may have a point; we, as a student body, have some degree of responsibility to familiarize ourselves with the workings of our government. It is hard to find the motivation to do so, however, when that government seems to serve no real purpose other than to pad its members’ resumés. Whether this widespread perception is justified or not, it without question exists, which is itself a problem in need of a remedy.
As incoming president, Solebo must make it a top priority to explain in clear and relatable terms what the SGA actually does, and why students should be interested in its inner workings.
It should take steps to actually address student concerns in a meaningful way, rather than simply decree the occasional non-binding resolution. Especially with devastating budget cuts looming on the horizon, the SGA must become a fierce and proactive advocate for student interests, rather than a passive receptor of cues from the College administration. It should not shy away from addressing politically sensitive issues when doing so is in our best interests.
As a rising junior, Solebo may well serve two full terms as president, and thus has the ability to remake what our government apparatus is capable of accomplishing.
He certainly has the charisma and eloquence to enact real change, but he is also liable to fall into a familiar trap: becoming so insulated and accustomed to the power of the presidency that he loses sight of delivering for the campus.
Solebo made a number of campaign pledges during his interview with The Perspective, and next year we intend to hold him accountable for fulfilling them. “If you don’t know how something works for you,” Solebo said of SGA’s reputation, “how can it work for you?” He must take tangible and measurable steps to increase the legitimacy of the institution over which he now presides. Outreach does not mean putting up fliers or sending out Facebook messages. Outreach means establishing a genuine connection with students, addressing their concerns in a timely manner, and increasing transparency and accountability.
Racial Tension in the Campus Police
As a community advisor, Solebo said he maintains a cordial relationship with all the security personnel named in the lawsuit discussed in last month’s Perspective.
Out of a desire not to pre-judge the litigants, Solebo said he would essentially take a hands-off approach. But if the lawsuit goes to trial, as the plaintiffs’ lawyer predicted it would, Solebo must be more proactive in pushing the administration to discipline and perhaps remove those officers who are clearly responsible for perpetuating racial animosity within the force. Otherwise, the safety of our community may be compromised. Though he said he was “troubled” by the allegations of racism, actions from Solebo would speak much louder than words.
Transparency within SGA
There has long been speculation that the closed-door SGA election process leaves room for manipulation of votes, according to former members. Solebo promised to introduce legislation that would reform the penalties for “elections violations”; within the current system, candidates for election can lose votes based on their own personal violations of campus conduct codes, including minor alcohol infractions. This process lacks transparency and is inherently undemocratic, or as Solebo said, “disenfranchising.” “It’s not something that any legitimate organization should be practicing,” he said. There needs to be “more sunlight on those dark spots within SGA,” Solebo said, and he is in a perfect condition to do just that.
Drug and Alcohol policy
Solebo said he was opposed to the legalization of marijuana,
but in favor of reducing the drinking age to 18. Solebo should take proactive steps to ensure that drug and alcohol violations are handled on campus in a less draconian manner. Using his leverage, he should advocate that such violations be the lowest priority for law enforcement.
The Signal bailout
“It’s worrisome that part of the money I pay every year is going to bail out The Signal,” Solebo said. As a result of The Signal management’s financial indiscretions over the years, students are now forced to pay out of their own pockets to ensure that we continue to have a weekly newspaper.
However, this funding must come with strings attached. According to Brian Block, The Signal had been paying its employees before their own printing costs. With this infusion of money from our tuitions, Solebo must ensure that The Signal is managing its finances appropriately.
Sponsoring Political Speakers
Solebo was involved in controversy this year when he spearheaded efforts to bring both Newark mayor Cory Booker and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee to campus. Though his efforts to heighten TCNJ’s prestige by inviting these prominent figures is admirable, Solebo must be more scrupulous in the procedure of doing so in the future. The Perspective reported that Booker accepted $11,000 from TCNJ for giving a speech that was essentially identical to one he delivered at Rider University the day before – without charge. Solebo must exhaust all possible avenues to bring speakers at as little cost as possible to students, especially with the dire financial predicament in which the College now finds itself. Further, SGA’s decision to bring Mike Huckabee to campus preempted efforts from both the College Republicans and Democrats to invite speakers of their own. In short, Solebo must make sure that the SGA is not overstepping its bounds.
To conclude, we congratulate Solebo on his victory; but with our congratulations also come high expectations. The Perspective intends to hold him and the SGA at large responsible for the duties they are entrusted with performing. We are optimistic about his tenure and hope to support the reformative measures he promised to introduce. Our student body president must be bold and assertive in his or her advocacy for TCNJ’s interests, and we will accept no less from the newly-elected Solebo.