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Grievance fails to change results

May 3, 2007

The Student Senate meeting was meant to wrap up the semester, but the crowd in attendance demonstrated the level of importance of the motions on the table.

The finance committee, headed by Jim Vierling had a motion on the table to approve a series of one-time funding requests that were submitted by various organizations on campus.

Though more organizations applied than were approved, $8,400 was allocated to Focus on U, men’s rugby, Theta Chi fraternity and the badminton club. Each organization was required to submit a request for a specific amount of money and offer the reasons for the requests. For example, Focus on U was allocated $6,000 for a new set.

Both the men’s rugby team and the Asian Student Alliance (ASA) had members in attendance to offer their insight on the motion.

The men’s rugby team left satisfied with the turnout, but ASA was disappointed that their request for funding for a storage unit was denied. 

“We understood, as a committee, the need for space … It wasn’t a feasible thing to build a new building on campus,” Leadership Development and Programming Board (LDPB) Chair Natalie Hagberg said.

The motion approving the funding passed by unanimously.

The remaining members of the audience were there to fight for and attest the grievance that was filed about last Tuesday’s elections.

On the ballot was a referendum for United Council. Though the final vote tallied in favor of not being part of United Council, there was only an eight-vote difference.

Student Ben Plunkett filed a three-page grievance following the elections accusing the College Republicans of violating election rules.

The College Republicans reserved a table April 17 in the lobby of the University Center to be used to show their opposition for United Council.

On the day of the election, April 24, they set up their table in the entrance of the University Center near the student-use computers. Due to their location and proximity to the computers that could be used for voting, they were in violation of the UW-River Falls Student Association Election Rules.

According to the election rules, “All campaign material must be a minimum of 100 feet away from the ballot box and or any other means of voting.”

Members of the College Republicans attended the meeting in order to speak about the issue.

“I was there, I was waving in the photo. I didn’t know I was doing something wrong until that day. We were told that we couldn’t be there, but we wanted to hear it from an official person.”

Plunkett and another member of the College Democrats confronted the table and informed them of the inappropriate nature of the table. Student

Senate Advisor Gregg Heinselman was informed of the issue and reviewed the election rules before advising the table be shut down.

The College Republicans’ table was open from 10:30 a.m.-11:45 a.m., not long enough to affect the voting, College Republican Casie Kelley said.

“The only interaction that we had was the negative interaction that occurred [with Ben Plunkett],” Kelley said. “No students visited our table, we handed out no fliers.”

Though the verbal sparring continued between not only audience members but also the Student Senate members, the issue at hand became more
focused on the principle of not punishing a group for acting wrongly in s situation where rules and guidelines are clearly written and distributed.

“I am not saying that yes, they did sway the election, but their intent was to sway the election,” said Thomas Friant, student organizer and co-chair of College Democrats. “If this organization does not uphold its own rules then I will sadly lose a lot of respect for this institution, and that’s sad since it
is one of the greatest institutions on this campus.”

“This is not ‘Nam, there are rules here,” Plunkett said.

After the grievance was filed, the ethics committee reviewed the situation and issued a written reprimand to the College Republicans in accordance with the written election rules.

“ … there was no reason to overturn the election results because there was no evidence that the results would have been any different,” said Hagberg, who all sits on the ethics committee.

After an hour of discussion, and with three names still on the speaker’s list a motion passed to move to question. In this instance it skipped the remaining people on the list and allowed the Senate to vote on the original motion.

The motion required a two-thirds vote in order to pass. Through a hand vote, the motion to overturn the results of the referendum did not pass.

The members of next semester’s Student Senate sat in on Tuesday’s meeting. President Joe Eggers passes his gavel to Derek Brandt next semester with Sara Deick sitting as vice president.

To conclude the meeting, Eggers addressed all of Student Senate for the last time.

“I’m really proud of you guys,” Eggers said. “I was worried in the beginning, but I’m really proud of everything you’ve done.”