SG needs changes after ticket-resale

Student Government’s response to the ticket-resale controversy should not be just to rebuke the two senators who sold tickets to an SG-sponsored concert at a profit, but to overhaul SG’s procedures for preventing and responding to potential ethical lapses.

There is little to be said for Sens. Jesse Parrish and Blake Burnett, who bought tickets for last month’s SG-sponsored Corey Smith concert at the discounted Greek rate of $5 and resold them at their $15 list price. Proceeds from the concert went to UK’s Violence Intervention and Prevention Center, meaning those $10 profits could have gone toward fighting sexual assault instead of lining two SG senators’ pockets.

But Parrish already conceded in a Sept. 26 letter to the Kernel that his actions were “just plain stupid” and promised that he and Burnett would donate their personal profits to the VIP Center. Barring further revelations about their conduct, it seems the case is closed as far as they’re concerned.

However, that doesn’t mean nothing more should come from the situation, which made it clear that SG would benefit from some self-examination on ethics.

First, SG needs to make sure its officers and senators understand their responsibilities as public officials. They cannot act under the pretense that there is a neat divide between their personal lives and their roles as SG officeholders or legislators — sometimes, as in the ticket-resale case, the roles are blurred.

Perhaps it is unjust for students to reach conclusions about SG as a whole based on some of its officials’ actions as private citizens, but that is bound to happen. When SG senators act questionably, even on their own time and without sanction from the organization’s higher-ups, SG’s image suffers among students — a situation all of its officials have an interest in avoiding.

Second, the process of investigating potential ethical violations is far too cumbersome. President Nick Phelps and the Senate should begin working on a way to streamline it.

The initial step of the current process, according to the SG Code of Ethics, is for someone who believes a violation has occurred to file a complaint. Then, the SG Supreme Court’s chief justice forms a 15-person ethics commission made up of students who are independent from SG. The chief justice selects a three-person subpanel from the full commission, along with an attorney general from outside the ethics commission.

The attorney general, with the help of the three-person subpanel, spearheads an investigation into whether the actions listed in the complaint violated SG’s ethics code. The subpanel submits a report to be approved by the full ethics committee. However, the committee’s decision is non-binding; after the group makes a recommendation, it is up to the SG Senate’s Impeachment and Censure Committee to take action based on the findings.

That process is too long and arduous to accomplish much. Not only would it create an amount of labor that would be disproportionate for any allegation short of a major ethical breach — which the ticket-resale situation, as it appears, is not — but it would be nearly impossible for it to result in action until months after the initial incident.

SG should pass legislation to streamline this process, perhaps by replacing the long procession of appointments and committees with a single standing committee.

The group could consist of SG senators and justices along with an equal number of unaffiliated students, chosen at the start of each school year through an application process, and it would be responsible for investigating ethics complaints. Most importantly, the committee could put its recommendations for censure or impeachment before the full Senate right away instead of going through numerous other approvals first.

As the ticket-resale controversy shows, SG needs to start thinking more carefully about the ethical behavior of its officials. Ultimately, those efforts can’t succeed without a workable, quick process for dealing with allegations of impropriety.