Last spring, the Student Government Association’s (SGA) presidential election was tainted with controversy. During the course of the campaign, the Elections Commissioner accused presidential candidate (then-junior) David Kusnetz and vice-presidential candidate (then-junior) Melissa Madaio of various violations, which they decided to challenge in an appeals process. However, in the spring of 2007, a new constitution was adopted that provided SGA with only vague bylaws concerning appeals. With no precedent for how to implement this new appeal procedure, the next appropriate action was to pass the decision to the SGA Leadership, which consists of the President, Vice-President, Speaker of the Senate, Cabinet members, Parliamentarian and other major elected officials in the SGA.
As a result, then-SGA President Rob Sobelman ’08 became involved in the presidential campaign, an involvement that eventually led to impeachment charges. Ultimately, he was not impeached, but rather formally reprimanded by the Senate for his seeming bias toward Kusnetz and Madaio’s campaign. The election was over before the appeal process even began, and since Kusnetz and Madaio won by such a large margin, they decided to drop the appeal.
“No one really understood how to run the appeal process,” current SGA President Kusnetz said. Since the [new constitution’s] bylaws were so vague, it became a political question.”
In response to last year’s controversial appeal proceedings, senior Senator Grafton Connor proposed several revisions to the bylaws in an effort to clarify the appeal process at the SGA meeting on Tuesday night.
“We didn’t want the issue to be raised again, so we sat down for three hours to revise the bylaws,” Kusnetz said. “We thought about all the issues and loopholes and wrote it. We also went to the Government Affairs Committee to seek their approval, and they unanimously endorsed it.”
One revision of the bylaws gives the current president the right to oversee the appeals process within the Leadership. This removes ambiguity from the election process.
“Last spring, the Election Commissioner kept issuing new rules during the two week campaigning period. For this reason, we wanted to restrict the legislative power of the Elections Commission by requiring that all campaign rules must be set and finalized before the two week campaigning period begins,” Kusnetz said.
However, not everyone supports these revisions of the bylaws.
“It would hamper us from running a smooth election and basically tie the hands of the Election Commissioners,” junior Philip Salvatore, Parliamentarian of the SGA and former Election Commissioner said. “I was surprised when Dave introduced the revised set of bylaws. What I find very unsettling are some of the changes that he is proposing.”
“It is strange that the current parliamentarian would object to these revisions of the bylaws because it actually gives more power to the Parliamentarian,” he said in response to Salvatore’s comment. “If the President and the Speaker of the Senate are deemed as campaign agents, which is a declared supporter of a specific campaign, then the power to oversee the appeal process goes directly to the Parliamentarian.”
Another revision called for the clarification of who actually works on the campaign.
“Under the new system, biased SGA officials must step down and not vote on any appeal process,” Connor said.”This will ensure that if a member of SGA, such as Rob Sobelman, is working on a campaign, he/she cannot participate in the appeals process.”
“Attacks on the appeals process are misguided,” Connor said at the Senate meeting. “The changes were fairly uncontroversial.The passed amendments clarified and simplified the existing bylaws.”
However, a lengthy debate took place after he presented the proposed revisions of the bylaws. Three amendments were proposed to Connor’s revisions and all three lost the majority. By the end of the meeting, the senators voted and approved Connor and Kusnetz’s revision of the bylaws.