Student government debates election reform

The Student Government Association deliberates amendments to the association’s bylaws on Wednesday, April 25. Fangyu Wu/ Staff Photographer

The Student Government Association deliberates amendments to the association’s bylaws on Wednesday, April 25. Fangyu Wu/ Staff Photographer

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Of  the 18 points of business in this week’s Student Government Association agenda, senate only officially made a decision on four. Every business point brought before the association was met with enough debate to drive the meeting close to six hours in length.

The Student Government Association deliberates amendments to the association’s bylaws on Wednesday, April 25. Fangyu Wu/ Staff Photographer

The meeting began with the chartering of Dumbledore’s Army, a Harry Potter fan club on Saint Louis University’s campus. The group completed the necessary probationary period, and senate unanimously granted their charter status. Next, SGA allocated $1,894 in spot funding to the girl’s Ultimate Frisbee team to cover travel fees for an upcoming tournament.

Dean of Students Mona Hicks and Director of Student Conduct Katherine Weathers then gave a presentation on the upcoming review of the student conduct process and student handbook. The point they really wanted to make with their presentation was that throughout the duration of the review, Student Involvement and Conduct want to collect as much student feedback as they can.

“What I’ve learned in my short but fabulous tenure at SLU is that the relationship with students is like one between a doctor and a patient,” Hicks said. “We want to impart knowledge, and [we] care about your well being.”

The final thing that passed through senate without debate the passing of a resolution to commemorate Kenneth Hornak, the late assistant director of field operations for the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, who passed away last Thursday.

After tabling a bill to create a Sustainability Committee, SGA moved on to discuss the bills they had tabled in last week’s meeting. Up first was a bill to amend the association’s bylaws to ensure they were consistent with current practices, particularly those pertaining to the new circumstances surrounding the Wellness Fee Committee.

A point of contention among the senators was an amendment to the bill that would make it so committee representatives could not outnumber senatorial representatives on the Wellness Fee Committee.

“There are logistical benefits to having more senators on the committee,” said Senator Ben Raymond. “When a funding bill comes up before senate, the more people in the room who know what went on during committee voting, the better.”

The vote reflected Raymond’s sentiments, as the amendment passed before the bill was tabled for another week.

The final bill senate discussed at length was a bill proposing several amendments to the bylaws to create a better election process. Senator Kathleen Cadigan, this year’s election commissioner and author of the bill, stated that her time spent on senate and on the election commission influenced her decision to propose the changes.

First, senate addressed the proposition that in the event of an election where there is no majority winner for a position, a run-off election would take place between the candidates who received the most votes. Concerns were raised that given the consistently low voter turn out in the past election years, there would be an even lower number of students willing to vote in an any additional election to decide the SGA executive board.

“I feel the low voter turn out will embarrass SGA,” said Vice President of Internal Affairs Scott Hessel. “We already have a problem with bureaucracy and meeting with constituents, and this won’t help.”

Senate initially voted not to let this point stand, but after an adjustment to the senatorial voting rules to reflect senator attendance, the point was reconsidered and passed.

The next point brought up was a motion to not permit the formation of executive board tickets. Instead, only independent candidates would run for each executive board position.

Debate among the senators focused on the practicality of making people run on their own versus having people to run with. Some argued that the need to be on a ticket might scare some people from running, while others argued that having only independent candidates would not provide the same kind of motivation that being a part of a ticket might. Arguments were also made that tickets have the potential the skew the election process because not everyone who runs might be best for the job, but are instead running to fill an empty ticket position.

“This wont ruin the election process, it will just change it,” said Senator Alexander Salazar, who spoke in favor of ticket elimination. “It’s not something we have done before, and we don’t know what exists on the other side of tickets. We should try it.”

Despite rampant debate on the issue, the point passed, making it so election tickets will not be permitted in next year’s SGA election.

The next point discussed addressed the election finances. While it was agreed that anyone running should frequently disclose their expenses to the election commission, an amendment was made to only allocate $300 to the presidential candidates and $200 to the vice presidential candidates. Both the amendment and the point passed.

The final point of the bill proposed making endorsements of senate or executive board candidates by any current senators or executive board members a violation of election procedure. This was the only point of the bill to fail.

The bill in its entirety was tabled for another week, as were the remaining bills on the agenda. All will be voted on in next week’s meeting, which is the final SGA meeting of the year.