Editorial: We Need Substance in SBA Elections
This year’s Student Bar Association election is one of the most robust in years, with no clear front-runner and vibrant campaign efforts. Unfortunately, many candidates do not seem to be taking the election as seriously as we expect student leaders should. Calls for toilet action plans and better coffee in the cafeteria are not solutions to the real challenges the SBA should address. The memes popping up on lockers only mock the kind of substantive election that this school needs. With a broad range of challenges facing the new board, we need candidates that are focused, serious, and can handle a wide array of challenges. So far we’re not impressed.
Next year, Fordham Law School will be enrolling fewer students and cutting the budget accordingly. This alone presents a huge challenge to the incoming SBA. Currently, the SBA runs on a zero balance budget. This means that if every student group spent every dollar it is allocated, the SBA would go broke by the end of each year—all unused funds are shuffled back into the university-wide account. Next year, the budget could be cut by 15 to 30 percent. The current SBA has been pushing for a system that allows student groups to turn over unspent funds to the following year’s board. Such an effort needs to continue seamlessly or it will be lost.
But funding isn’t the only challenge for the incoming SBA board. Problems in the move to the new building need to be addressed now. Journals are preparing to move into smaller offices, and the various centers and clinics are still vying for space that will conflict with the needs of student groups. Indeed, the number of student groups is increasing; it’s likely that we’ll have 63 unique student groups next year when the current applications are approved. We need an SBA that can work on behalf of students to see that our new building is used in the students’ best interest.
Beyond campus, there are broad changes being discussed (and implemented) in the legal community. For one, the new 50-hour pro bono requirement remains a mystery to many. The incoming SBA board needs to take an active role in pushing the administration to inform students about changing requirements. The SBA should work with administrators to gauge student and faculty interest in other changes, such as the two-year model currently being discussed by the American Bar Association, and advocate accordingly.
During OCI, the SBA board is responsible for preparing students, coordinating with the interviewing firms, and hosting daily receptions. It welcomes new students and helps run orientation. It plans the bar night calendar and coordinate planning for the commencement speaker. It holds a treasurers’ meeting and determines student group budgets. And it does all of this before the first week of classes is complete. The tasks only multiply as the year goes on.
Don’t get us wrong, the student body will be fine with weak representation but we will be best served by a board that takes the job seriously. The CPC will continue to remind us to look pretty for OCI, Academic Affairs will continue to encourage us to form study groups, and the librarians will offer comfortable chairs as incentive to spend every waking moment in the library. But treating the elections like a joke—even if the candidates do—is selling ourselves short of an opportunity. We need leadership that will more assertively advocate on behalf of students. We also need representatives with tact and grace, not representatives focused solely on grooming their image or spending reckless amounts of time on niche problems.
This campaign has devolved into a farce. We need serious candidates with concrete ideas about how to work effectively within increasingly constrained regulations to support the students. Whoever is elected this year will have to answer to the students, and we should make every effort to hold them accountable after elections are complete.
–The Record Editorial Board