Issues over Student Government Association election lead to disciplinary action
April 26, 2017
Inaccuracies and the postponement of the Student Government Association (SGA) election have led to disciplinary action toward the person tasked with overseeing the process.
At a special session of the Student Senate on Sunday, April 23, a motion, discussed and passed in closed session, included a vote of no confidence in Oversight and Rules Committee (ORC) Chairperson Dana Redlin, referring her to the ORC with the advice to elect a new chairperson.
The ORC is the ethics committee of the SGA. The chairperson's responsibilities include overseeing disciplinary action and ethics disputes, as well as overseeing the election.
On Monday, April 17, the original election ballot was published on the SGA FalconSync page. The ballot was soon taken down, however, after inaccuracies were found, including names of candidates being left off the ballot and incorrect instruction when it came to how many at-large senators students could vote for.
The election was originally intended to run from April 17-21, but had to be postponed due to such inaccuracies. The results of the election at that point had to be erased, with students who had already submitted their ballots having to re-vote when the new ballot was released on April 25.
“I’m incredibly disappointed by what has happened, and I think people need to be held accountable,” said Student Body President Chris Morgan.
Morgan said that the decision to discuss this matter in closed session was due to the fact that the disciplinary act was against one individual and that the discussion contained sensitive information.
However, based on the discussion, he said he believes that everyone was on the same page.
“Without getting into too much detail, I think it was clear to everyone that something needed to happen moving forward,” said Morgan.
As part of the motion, SGA Advisor Gregg Heinselman put a hold on Redlin’s account of $1,000, which she received through a scholarship for being the ORC chairperson.
The ORC chairperson receives a $2,000 scholarship for the academic year, which comes out of the Senate operating budget. This scholarship is given at the beginning of each semester. Because Redlin joined about halfway through the year, she received $1,000 of the scholarship.
“I look at this money as we’re investing in individuals. This isn’t a typical job; it’s an investment,” said Morgan. “And if you look at how this money was invested, it wasn’t a good investment.”
The motion also encouraged the next year’s Senate to develop a contract signed by all members receiving scholarships or compensation through the SGA. This contract would state that such members would have to forfeit the funds they received since taking office if their obligations are not met.
“The money that we invested for this election in terms of getting someone to do their job, failed,” said Morgan. “I think it’s clear that it obviously didn’t determine them to work hard in terms of getting the election on.”
At the ORC meeting on Monday, the committee voted that while Redlin would be removed from the chairperson position for the rest of the year, she would remain on the committee and keep the $1,000 scholarship.
Sarah Slinger, the newly-appointed ORC chairperson, declined to comment on the committee’s decision.
Redlin declined to comment on the election, the vote of no confidence and the decision of the ORC.
When it comes to disciplinary action against a Senate member, the process is to be referred to the ORC by a vote from the Senate or the student body president. Because Redlin was not facing removal as a member of the organization, Morgan said that there is no next step after the ORC.
“I don’t know what you do in that case,” said Morgan. “In my opinion, it’s the worst case scenario to have the ethics chair referred to the ethics committee.”
With Redlin having been the chair of the ORC, Heinselman said that he recognizes the possible conflict of interest.
“Basically you have a Senate body that can recommend to an Oversight and Rules Committee actions on the chair, but when the chair is basically on a committee of close associates, how neutral can the body be on reviewing and offering a perspective?” said Heinselman.
Heinselman said that he plans on encouraging next year’s Senate to look into changing the checks and balances when it comes to the ORC.
“I think the language that defines the committee now had good intent behind it, but I don’t think it was structured in the way in which it could be as effective as it should be,” said Heinselman.
Heinselman said that while this election needs fixing, there are many things about the election process that needs to be changed. This includes debates or town hall meetings if there are multiple students running for student body president and members of the Senate knowing more about how the election should be run.
“I wish they’d get more organized in that area, and I wish they’d read and follow their bylaws and rules and oversight standards that they set forth,” said Heinselman.
Heinselman said that there is a possibility that the issues with the election could hurt the voter turnout, which would affect the referendums on the ballot, including the Greenovation Fund, a student fee that would go toward sustainability efforts on campus.
“In order to initiate a new fee, it has to be a referendum and you need a certain percentage of students to vote on the referendum, and I’ll be curious to see if we get that voter turnout or not because of the miscommunication of where things are at,” said Heinselman. “It’s an unfortunate side of this whole thing.”
Whatever the next Senate body decides to do, it is clear that changes need to be made in order for the next election to run smoothly.
“From the start of the election process, there were challenges,” said Heinselman,” and typically when things start that way they tend to grow, and I think we’re seeing that in this situation.”
The election with the new ballot was posted on Tuesday and will run through Friday, April 28 at 4 p.m.