The Sunflower

CORRECTED: Student senate passes bill reforming SGA elections

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CORRECTION and EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this article, published online and posted on The Sunflower’s Facebook page Thursday afternoon, included incorrect information about SB-60-100. Its headline, “Student government will hold separate outgoing, incoming cabinet banquets,” was also incorrect and has been updated to reflect the facts of the bill. The earlier version of this story was based on the first reading of the bill, not the bill that was passed last night. The Sunflower always strives to be accurate, but in this case the mistake slipped through. For transparency’s sake, the original version of the story is attached at the bottom of this story, in italics, so readers can see how what had originally been reported.

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UPDATE:

The Student Senate passed a bill to reform general elections during their meeting on Wednesday night. Provisions found in the bill will be effective for the upcoming election season, which begins in late February.

The bill, titled “The New Election Reform Act (ERA)”, was authored by the Association’s Cabinet, and features changes to campaigning restrictions, candidacy requirements, and protocol for incoming and outgoing student government officers.

One provision in ERA opens many of the previously-restricted areas for campaigning, allowing candidates to use areas like Ablah Library and the University Shuttle System to promote their candidacy. In addition, candidates may now campaign outside of university property.

Joshua Nichols, former Senator and member of the Election Commission, said that with the previous campaigning restriction around the University Shuttle System, it was unclear what areas were actually prohibited.

“We spent probably a solid hour debating what the University Shuttle System’s jurisdiction was,” he said. “Is it the stands where the buses come to stop? Whether that’s the entire road that the shuttle drives on…”

“It’s a very grey line to interpret that, and I think it’s just too hard to enforce as an Election Commissioner,” Nichols said.

The bill also changes some of the requirements for students who wish to run in the general election.

Candidates for contested seats must submit an individual application to the Association’s Office Manager or designee by noon on “the Wednesday preceding the third Monday of March.” For this year’s election, that deadline falls on the 14th of March.

After submitting an application, all candidates must attend a reading of the election’s regulations from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Any candidate who fails to attend the reading will be disqualified.

The New Election Reform Act also removes the outgoing president from the selection process for Treasurer, Student Advocate, and Cabinet positions; however, the outgoing Treasurer and Student Advocate will be involved in the interview process for respective incoming officers.

During the bill’s first discussion, several senators expressed that the outgoing president could hold insight about the best candidates for the positions, and that they should not be removed from the selection process.

“The outgoing president knows what kind of people need to fill those positions,” Senator Kyler Sanders said. “The incoming president might not exactly know what to look for.”

Senator Greg Bucchin shared another perspective. “I think that the incoming president should be able to choose whoever they want to work with,” he said. “I don’t think the [outgoing president] has any place in this.”

The bill was originally tabled at SGA’s final meeting of the fall semester after multiple senators expressed concerns about a provision in the bill that would have separated celebrations for incoming and outgoing officers.

During the student government banquet last May, Hungate’s parents were accused of battery and anti-black, hate “fighting words” after an altercation with outgoing Student Body President Joseph Shepard. The district attorney did not file criminal charges against Hungate’s parents, but the incident incited student protests that set the tone for her first weeks in office.

“I don’t believe that we need to have two separate banquets coming out of two separate funds,” Senator Yang said during the final SGA meeting of the fall semester. “And I really believe that we could use the funds from the separate reception for something that is a little bit more useful considering tuition is going up.”

Ultimately, the provision separating the incoming and outgoing officers was removed from the bill, meaning that both incoming and outgoing SGA officers will attend a single banquet.

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ORIGINAL STORY: The Student Senate passed a bill to reform general election rules and separate incoming and outgoing SGA cabinets in previously shared processes.

The changes will be effective for the upcoming election season, which begins in late February.

The bill, titled “The New Election Reform Act (ERA)”, was authored by the Association’s cabinet, and features changes to campaigning restrictions, candidacy requirements, and protocol for incoming and outgoing student government officers. 

The bill, which was passed Wednesday night, opens many of the previously-restricted areas for campaigning, allowing candidates to use areas like The Grace Memorial Chapel and the University Shuttle System to promote their candidacy. In addition, candidates may now campaign outside of university property.

Joshua Nichols, former senator and member of the Election Commission, said that with the previous campaigning restriction around the university’s shuttle system, it was unclear what areas were actually prohibited.

“We spent probably a solid hour debating what the University Shuttle System’s jurisdiction was,” he said. “Is it the stands where the buses come to stop? Whether that’s the entire road that the shuttle drives on.

“It’s a very grey line to interpret that, and I think it’s just too hard to enforce as an Election Commissioner,” Nichols said.

The bill also changes some of the requirements for students who wish to run in the general election.

Candidates for contested seats must submit an individual application to the Association’s Office Manager or designee by noon on “the Wednesday preceding the third Monday of March.” This year, that deadline falls on the 14th of March.

After submitting an application, all candidates must attend a reading of the election’s regulations from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Any candidate who fails to attend the reading will be disqualified.

The New Election Reform Act also separates incoming and outgoing SGA officers in processes that were previously shared — one of which removes the outgoing president from the selection process for treasurer, student advocate, and cabinet positions.

Several senators expressed during the bill’s first discussion that the outgoing president could hold insight about the best candidates for the positions, and that they should not be removed from the selection process.

“The outgoing president knows what kind of people need to fill those positions,” Senator Kyler Sanders said. “The incoming president might not exactly know what to look for.”

Senator Greg Bucchin shared another perspective. “I think that the incoming president should be able to choose whoever they want to work with,” he said. “I don’t think the [outgoing president] has any place in this.”

Additionally, the celebrations for outgoing and incoming sessions will be separated, and the latter will be paid for by Vice President for Student Affairs Teri Hall, using catering funds from Chartwells.

At SGA’s last meeting of the fall semester, Paige Hungate, Student Body President and co-author of ERA, said that separating the two would allow for both sessions to be properly celebrated.

“We want to be able to celebrate the past session, and then be able to welcome in the new sessions,” she said. “But separately.”

As for student officials who are re-elected, Hungate confirmed that they would be eligible to attend both the incoming and outgoing celebrations.

Several senators preferred that the two sessions should be limited to one celebration, including Senator Stella Yang, who said that the funds could be used for “something that is a little bit more useful, considering tuition is going up.”

Senator Kenon Brinkley said that having two separate banquets could serve as an excuse to ignore any “beef’ between outgoing and incoming administrations.

During the student government banquet last May, Hungate’s parents were accused of battery and anti-black, hate “fighting words” after an altercation with outgoing Student Body President Joseph Shepard. Criminal charges against Hungate’s parents were dropped, but the incident incited student protests that set the tone for her first weeks in office.

“I think we should promote a conversation and a narrative of more professionalism,” Brinkley said. “I don’t think there should be issues with administrations talking to one another.”

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