Temple Student Government introduced Parliament this year as a chance for the student body’s voice to be better represented.
Several months in, the legislative body has been stifled by an executive branch that is reluctant to give Parliament the responsibilities that one would expect student legislators to have.
According to emails The Temple News obtained from a TSG source, one Parliament member was scolded for trying to speak to student media about an initiative he wanted to propose, since that would infringe upon a goal for the student government to have “a unified voice.” Another Parliament member was encouraged by TSG’s communications department to have Student Body President Aron Cowen sit in on an interview the Parliament member had with a local media organizaion about an initiative he was working on.
Some members of Parliament have told The Temple News that procedures put in place by the Executive Branch have hindered their ability to represent their section of the student body. Some were told it wasn’t their job to reach out to the Faculty Senate or other members of the university, even if it was for research for an initiative they wanted to propose.
Parliament members have also aired grievances about the lack of transparency between branches, specifically on what initiatives Executive Branch members have been working on with members of university administration.
The Executive Branch’s desire to have a great deal of involvement with Parliament in its first year is understandable — it is a very new component of Temple’s student government.
TSG’s constitution outlines Parliament as a legislative body that does not function under the Executive Branch, but alongside it.
Cowen attended a Parliament meeting on March 20 and spoke about proposed legislation, when he was not on the agenda to do so. This is allowed under TSG’s constitution, but some members of Parliament felt this overstepped his outlined influence over the legislative branch.
In response, a petition has been created, asking Cowen to resign as president. The petition cites his presence at the March 20 meeting as the moment that Parliament members “lost patience, and on that day, trust in Temple Student Government.”
The petition was tweeted from an account called “ResignTSG,” which on Sunday night was tweeting at candidates for the TSG executive branch and Parliament, asking them to sign the petition.
We empathize with the Parliament members who feel they don’t have the freedom to effectively do their jobs. While the current constitution allows for Cowen to attend a Parliament meeting and have “speaking and introducing rights,” that doesn’t provide the legislative body with some degree of separation from the executive branch.
Parliament should be able to hold meetings, speak with faculty and administrators and make decisions without permission from the Executive Branch.
In the collection of emails The Temple News received, Cowen cites needing a “unified voice” for TSG when speaking to media, explaining that only Parliament’s speaker, Jordan Laslett, may speak at any time on behalf of the legislative body. Limiting communication with outside parties and media outlets hinders the legislative branch from accomplishing what it was created to do — be a voice for, and represent students who don’t usually get a say in student government.
But asking Cowen to resign a few weeks before his time is up does little for a productive conversation about how to actually improve both branches.
We are disappointed that the person or group behind the petition calls for more transparency from current TSG representatives, while running an anonymous campaign to oust them.
It’s encouraging to see student government representatives that want to serve their student body effectively. But for this to be a reality for the rest of the year and through the election of next year’s governors, each branch has to be willing to hear the other out.