Georgia Tech student: End partisanship by student associations

In a guest column, a Georgia Tech student is critical of the Student Government Association taking political stands.

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In a guest column, a Georgia Tech student is critical of the Student Government Association taking political stands.

As an aspiring astrophysicist, Angela Hill is studying physics with a minor in nuclear engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Hill plans to join the effort in space exploration or nuclear power generation.

A member of the Yellow Jacket Marching Band and the GT Astronomy Club, Hill writes for the Liberty Jacket, an independent student publication at Georgia Tech that encourages a range of political points of view.

By Angela Hill

While diversity is promoted at Georgia Tech, that doesn’t always extend to diversity of thought. The Student Government Association recently published a slideshow called “Resources for Reproductive Health and Advocacy” on its Instagram page and a “Reproductive Justice Resource Guide” on its Linktree.

Both came in response to the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision in which the U.S. Supreme Court voted 6-3 to overturn the nearly 50-year-old Roe v. Wade and 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The two rulings protected the practice of abortion nationally.

Although this guide seems to be popular among some students, it does not represent the sentiment of the entire student body.

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Georgia Tech student Angela Hill

Credit: Courtesy photo

Georgia Tech student Angela Hill

Credit: Courtesy photo

Combined ShapeCaption
Georgia Tech student Angela Hill

Credit: Courtesy photo

Credit: Courtesy photo

The issue here isn’t whether abortion is right or wrong. The issue is that SGA has taken a firm political stance encouraging students to be instruments of the abortions rights movement. SGA suggests to students contact “Democratic Majority Leadership’' and call Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to “let him know you disagree with efforts to implement Georgia’s LIFE Act and any restrictive legislation.”

Some students alerted the University System of Georgia about SGA’s post, but the response from Georgia Tech fell short. In an email response to students who complained, a Georgia Tech associate dean clarified that Tech did not endorse the post or approve it and advised students to contact SGA leadership. Students who did report said the SGA executive board has not replied.

SGA justified posting the guide as encouraging students to participate in political advocacy, a stated goal of their organization. However, SGA must provide fair consideration to the viewpoints of all students by providing options for all students to participate in political advocacy, regardless of their political beliefs and affiliations.

For example, there are likely students who would have liked to see a list of anti-abortion groups and pregnancy aid centers in SGA’s statement. Instead, SGA provided a list of abortion clinics and abortion rights organizations.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time Georgia Tech’s student government has taken partisan stances. In 2020, Students for Life reached a settlement of $50,000 against Georgia Tech after being denied funding by the SGA for an event featuring Dr. Alveda King on the grounds of her speech being offensive.

Georgia Tech SGA is not alone in taking partisan stances on controversial issues. There have been many instances of this abuse of power across the nation from many different universities. This is not a new issue.

Regardless of political beliefs, student governments should be nonpartisan. Ruling by viewpoint sets a dangerous precedent and can harm the campus environment. Universities are supposed to foster critical thinking, not enable elected representatives in student governments to direct students to join them in fighting on behalf of their personal political goals. Moreover, this political domination forces students apart into partisan bubbles and limits collaboration on campus.

SGA is a registered student organization. This means the SGA is entitled to make decisions about its activities without university interference. Autonomy is wonderful, but SGAs typically operate with mandatory fees collected from students and have control over and grant funding to other student groups. The widening acceptance for SGAs to rule by viewpoint eliminates the checks and balances integral to a student government’s operation and its purpose to represent the student body.

Allowing SGAs to rule by viewpoint also marginalizes student organizations like Students for Life and students who don’t agree with the SGA’s views. This causes political discourse that drives students apart and fosters intolerance for opposing beliefs instead of exposing students to different perspectives to broaden their outlook. Having a closed-minded campus is not conducive to a healthy college environment.

Colleges are not doing enough to protect students from SGA partisanship. If this issue is not addressed, student governments could begin using political persuasion to endorse candidates for office and organize campaign volunteers. Some student governments have already tried to oust students with differing viewpoints under the guise of “hate speech” as shown in a recording (warning — explicit language) from the University of Virginia in which a conservative student leader voiced critiques of a resolution and was accused of “hate speech” by fellow student leaders.

At the Eastern Virginia Medical School, a student group was denied from creating a single-payer health care student advocacy organization. Student government partisanship doesn’t impact only conservative students or liberal students. It affects all students. Because the political climate is ever-changing, ruling by viewpoint stunts critical thinking, results in favoritism, incriminates criticism and will inevitably alienate all students in our public universities.

Angela Hill, the author of this guest column, attends Georgia Tech.