Senators discuss constitutional changes to be made post-election
Mary Bernard | Thursday, March 8, 2018
The Judicial Council president and the student union parliamentarian presented potential changes to the Student Union Constitution as a result of complications during the recent election cycle to student senate Wednesday evening.
Due to mutiple unheard appeals, sanction discrepancy and confusion about constitutionally acceptable actions during the petitioning, campaigning and voting processes, senior Judicial Council president Matt Ross and junior parliamentarian Colin Brankin said they have discussed many constitutional changes.
“Right now, I already have 11 amendments that I have written,” Brankin said. “It’s not just one, big thing. This is going to be a multi-faced process.”
Ross said he wants to release the election results publicly after every election, including student body and class council elections. This previous election cycle, the results for the primary election were not released.
“I just think that there really isn’t a really good reason as to why we don’t release it,” Ross said. “I think for transparency’s sake and accountability’s sake, moving forward … it would be good if percentages, the pie chart and voter turnout get released for every election.”
St. Edward’s Hall senator, senior Chris Scott, said because of the several sanctions on the candidates during the elections, some of his constituents expressed concern that their votes did not count in the run-off election.
“Someone was telling me that it seems unfair that their votes were taken away,” he said. “This person thought it seemed that their votes didn’t even matter.”
The sanctions, however, do not take away a person’s vote but are a sanction on the percentage of the vote that the candidate receives, Ross said.
“The first time that we decided to take away a percentage of the votes, that 10 percent, we spent a significant amount of time thinking of other options and trying to figure out if … this was most appropriate for the violation,” Ross said.
He also said the sanction of forfeiting a percentage of a candidate’s vote is fairly common practice among collegiate student body president elections.
Ross said he also desires to change the appeal process because of the issues caused when senate was unable to meet quorum during the emergency meetings, leaving two appeals unheard.
“We are trying to make [appeals] a bit closer to the actual United States courts’ judicial system,” he said. “In that court, you can’t really just appeal because you feel like it or because you don’t like the decision.”
The change would only allow a person to appeal a decision if he or she found a procedural defect in the way the process was handled or if the constitution was misinterpreted, Ross said.
Ross said he also hopes to give more information to the person the allegation was filed against prior to the initial hearing, allowing them more time to prepare and ideally eliminating the necessity of filing an appeal.
Junior vice president-elect Corey Gayheart said that — had he and junior president-elect Gates McGavick been given more information on the allegation before their hearing — his ticket probably would not have had to appeal.
“The origins of most of our appeals were that we didn’t have all of the information going into the Judicial Council hearing to be able to defend ourselves fully with all of the evidence and witnesses that existed,” Gayheart said. “If we had the information beforehand … there’s really no need to appeal, because you’re doing all you can to defend yourselves to Judicial Council.”
Fisher Hall senator junior James Deitsch suggested removing senate from the appeal process altogether in order to streamline the process and eliminate the possibility of not meeting quorum, thus being unable to hear the appeal.
“I like that idea and I like keeping it all in house,” Brankin said. “Involving [senate] can be somewhat problematic at times. The reason why we do it, though, is mainly because you guys are the representative voice of the entire student body.”
Although the emergency senate meetings were last-minute and time consuming, Club Coordination Council president senior King Fok said he believes involving the senate is important in order to achieve a separation of power in student government.
Judicial Council also hopes to write an amendment regarding what to do when there is no majority in a runoff election, how to withdraw an appeal and that, during election season, any rule can be changed with a three-quarters vote by senate.
In the remaining two senate meetings of the Blais-Shewit administration, Ross and the Judicial Council will propose the constitutional amendments to the senate members for the senators to vote on, allowing the changes to take effect during the next student body election cycle.
Senate also approved the nomination of junior Bethany Boggess to be the new Student Union Board (SUB) executive director.
Current SUB executive director, senior Jackson Herrfeldt, presented his nomination for Boggess to the senate. Boggess has been on SUB for two years as a member of the concerts committee.
“She’s probably one of the hardest working members of SUB,” Herrfeldt said. “I completely trust her. Her dedication to student government and SUB in general is extreme.”
Senate also approved the nomination of sophomore and current Judicial Council chair Shady Girgis to succeed Matt Ross as Judicial Council president.
“There’s no one more qualified for this position than Shady,” Ross wrote in his nomination letter. “He is responsible, dependable and more than willing to sacrifice time for the betterment of the Student Union.”
Both the nominations for Boggess and Girgis were passed with no oppositions.