After party defeated, electees opt to leave SGA
| Marcus Clem editor in chief |
At least four of the 12 students who were elected as part of the Letner/Hebrlee slate to serve in the Student Government Association for the 2014-2015 academic year have pledged not to take their seats.
Viet Nguyen, Kiki Eigenmann and Jakey Dobbs have confirmed to The Collegio that they will not swear in as senators. Sydney Lemos has opted to officially resign.
Some members of Letner/Hebrlee who have chosen to stay on say that they believe more of their colleagues will depart in the near future. However, no additional commitments to leave have been announced.
Jaci Gilchrist, newly elected SGA vicepresident, says that the assembly’s policy allows for the removal of any member who fails to attend three meetings unexcused.
Each member is also required to work in the SGA office every week for at least one hour; missing two office hours counts as a missed meeting.
As a result, she says, anyone who did not attend either of the new administration’s meetings on Wednesday, April 16, or Wednesday, April 23, and has not worked any office hours before Friday, April 25, will be removed.
SGA will seek to fill all vacancies when classes resume this fall.
Nguyen, junior in finance, says that he’s quitting to give election-rival Gorilla Alliance a fair chance at governing without disruption, and to move on to other things.
“Last year produced disadvantages because there were two parties elected,” he said. “There was constant drama.
“When my party was defeated, I felt that in order for SGA to be better off, I should not be a member of the Senate this year. I feel like conflict would happen again. For the students, that is not right. We’re supposed to protect student rights, not fight each other.”
However, Nguyen says he does take issue with the appointment of Lindsay Ong to the position of SGA legislative affairs director.
Ong, who as SGA election board co-chair found herself at the center of the assembly’s election infighting, received the job in a surprise decision on Wednesday, April 16.
She had previously pledged to retire from SGA after the election, but will remain part of SGA’s executive cabinet in this role until December, when she is set to graduate.
“Everyone makes their own choices,” Nguyen said. “She did what she thinks is the best for her. When she became the co-chair, it was understood that she would not run again. We (confirmed her) on that understanding in order to protect fairness for both sides.
“That Lindsay became (legislative affairs director) might be an indication that the election was not fair. It creates questions.”
Ong says she is serving at the request of the new Senate.
“It was all up to them, just like how I was voted on as election co-chair,” she said. “It was never my intention to participate in SGA for the next school year.”
Dobbs, graduate student in communication and one of the students who is not taking her SGA seat, says it’s this kind of fighting, widespread during and after this year’s campaign, that has turned her away from the assembly.
“I felt like the negativity on campus was something that I didn’t want my name affiliated with,” she said. “I didn’t feel comfortable being a part of it even if the party that I was affiliated with had won; I still was going to resign in that case.”
Eigenmann, junior in psychology, says that she has just decided to move on. She served as SGA vice president for the 2013-2014 year.
“I decided prior to the election that I was not continuing with SGA,” she said, “and just couldn’t be removed from (the ballot) in time.”
Lemos, junior in finance, could not be reached for comment.
Michael Haynes, junior in physical education, a Letner/Hebrlee electee who has confirmed that he will remain a senator, says that many within the party are upset with its defeat.
“I don’t condone that kind of protest,” he said. “I feel that the best thing we can do is represent our students. By resigning out of some kind of protest, the only thing we accomplish is to let down our constituents.
“It’s unethical and it creates an image that is not how I want people to think of the Senate.”
Glenn Storey, senior in English, is also a Letner/Hebrlee electee who has resolved to stay, though he says he is aware why some are going.
“A lot of people were so upset by what has happened that they are not taking their senatorial position,” he said. “It’s a stand of principle to show how they did not agree with how elections were handled this year.
“At the end of the day, SGA is a student organization that works to effect change on campus … I’m going to serve because that’s what I want to do.”
Mark Johnson, university professor of technology and workforce learning, who served as SGA president from 1982-’83, says he is disappointed that departures are happening in the immediate aftermath of an election.
“I would encourage students to continue to participate regardless of the outcome,” he said. “If we feel the system is unjust or unfair, the only way to change it is to stay involved, build bridges and collaborate to come to common ground we can all agree on.
“It only takes a conversation to start momentum, but you have to be at the table where people are conversing to make it happen.”