March 23, 2011

Student government leaders extend terms

By Elyse Shirley

 

INDIANA -- During spirited debate Monday night, members of IUP's student council voted to amend -- and apparently ignore -- their bylaws and extend by a half year the terms of their two top leaders.

 

The change was adopted on an 11-7 voice vote during a meeting in Eberly 409 that was attended by about 20 Student Government Association members, a faculty adviser and a reporter. No roll call was taken.

 

The new bylaw provision was not spelled out. But it means SGA President David C. Bivens and Vice President Andrew S. Longacre -- both elected to one year terms in April 2010 -- will retain their leadership positions until December.


Under old student-government bylaws, their terms would end April 18, the last SGA meeting of the semester, following April 4 elections.

All other Student Government Association officers and members will continue on the annual April election schedule.

 

Neither Bivens nor Longacre voted on the motion. But they did push for a vote before the meeting adjourned.

 

Bivens argued that the change was needed to smooth transitions between SGA administrations. Other members argued that the election clock under existing bylaws did not allow the change.  

 

SGA bylaws Section 7.01, for example, reads: "No changes may be made within a month of the election." The next election is scheduled for April 4. The SGA acted on March 21.

 

Rules Committee chairman Zachary J. Stayman argued for delay and moved that the matter be referred to his panel first. Other members defeated the motion on a voice vote.

 

Procedural questions arose. Michael G. Kennedy, a political science major and a vice presidential candidate, moved to make the change but then attempted to withdraw the motion. The SGA member who seconded his motion could not be identified, which presented a question about parliamentary procedure.

 

Bivens argued that it would be easier to proceed to an up-or-down vote on the motion. Both he and Longacre advised other members on procedural questions during the discussion.

 

At the end of the meeting, the president was all smiles.

 

"I don't mind sticking around for another term," said Bivens.

 

Some other student government members were angered by the outcome, including Eddie Cervantes, a presidential candidate for the 2011-2012 election.

 

"I feel like the democratic process has failed," said Cervantes, a sophomore international business major.

 

Cervantes' would-be opponent also expressed chagrin at the end of the session.

 

"This meeting was a clusterf---," said Stayman, a political science major.


SGA members reacted with laughter. But tension was evident as members shifted in their seats and avoided eye contact with candidates whose intended elections were cancelled and rescheduled.

 

The date for the new election has yet to be set.

 

In other business:


SGA members debated an official position on a faculty-union-supported rally scheduled for Tuesday afternoon in the Oak Grove to protest Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed 50 percent cut in state spending on higher education.

 

A Stayman motion to condemn Corbett's budget proposal passed unanimously. But Bivens expressed concern over political effects.

 

"I worry, as an organization, we will have bad consequences if we take this stance at a rally," said Bivens.

 

However, SGA members said they will send about five representatives to Harrisburg for Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education's advocacy days, an April 4-5 rally in opposition to the governor's budget.

 

Bivens reviewed budgeting decisions made Thursday by the IUP Student Cooperative Association board, of which he is a member. Student-activity-fee spending on athletics, lively arts and museum activities will increase, Bivens reported. But the budget for the campus newspaper The Penn was cut, Bivens said. (See related story.)

 

Several SGA members asked why the paper's funding was cut.

 

"They failed to meet certain criteria, and The Penn sucks," said Bivens. "And that's on the record."

 

Guest speaker David H. Pistole, an IUP biology department professor, summarized curriculum changes for the next academic year, based on recent actions of the IUP Liberal Studies Committee.

 

Kennedy concluded with an announcement that the SGA website is being redesigned.

 

Elyse Shirley, a junior majoring in journalism, English and Spanish, is from Indiana, Pa.

 

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2 Comments

Elyse,

First off I want to thank you for attending, and reporting on, a meeting of the SGA. It is nice to see journalists on campus reporting on local government.

Unfortunately, I do have to correct some factual errors and provide some clarification in response.

First off, some critical information was left out of this report. The vote to extend the terms of the current President and Vice President was not an isolated matter, but instead a part of a much larger issue that took place throughout the meeting.

First, there was a matter on the agenda regarding whether or not we should switch SGA elections from their current spot at the end of the Spring semester to a new spot at the end of the Fall semester. A motion was put forth to approve the change and it passed unanimously.

This of course presents the issue of how an organization goes about making the transition, as no matter what it is inevitably a messy affair. No less than five options were presented and debated on, including my personal suggestion that the current candidates be elected to only a six-month term this Spring and then start again with year-long terms this upcoming Fall.

Mike Nelsen, not Mike Kennedy (same thing with the website revisions), citing issues of consistency, made a motion to chose extending the current regime until the proposed Fall elections and it was seconded by at least 5 people at once. More debate ensued, and while Mike Nelsen ultimately chose to ask for his motion to be withdrawn, before any seconder could also withdraw the motion the matter at hand was called to question, meaning it had to be voted on.

The vote, which was via a show of hands and not a voice vote (as if it was a voice vote there would be no way to put a number on it anyhow), was 15-4 in favor of extending the current regime (not 11-7) with neither Vice President Longacre or myself participating in the vote.

Once these two steps were completed, the questions of the Bylaws and the Constitution were considered. As the necessary parts of the Bylaws and Constitution were already prepared in expectation of a chance in elections, whatever that change would be, they were read aloud, as per the rules, and will be voted on at the next meeting on April 4th.

I am uncomfortable with the implication that either Andrew or I were "puppet masters" behind this proposal, namely because it was suggested by another member, was voted on unanimously and then with an overwhelming 15-4 majority on the specific vote, and most importantly because without the amendments to the bylaws and constitution at the next meeting no change could happen anyhow.

Being Student Government President is a tremendous responsibility, one that affects class attendance, GPA, time for friends and personal activities, etc. and it is not something that I, or anyone else, would wish to do for longer than expected simply on a whim. In saying that I would not mind "sticking around," I was simply stating that if this passed, I would not resign my civic duty. It passed 15-4, a vote I take as a mandate.

The fact that there were multiple votes, however, along with spirited discussion and debate, betrays Mr. Cervantes' assertion that the democratic process has been betrayed. It is too easy to cry foul following a defeat, but that only serves to demean the organization. Had the vote resulted in a different outcome, or if it still results in a different outcome on April 4th, there would not be any outcry against it. No matter what the outcome it, it will not be a matter of the democratic process failing, but instead it will be a prime example of the democratic process working perfectly.

Lastly, I smile regularly...even when typing :)

Sincerely,

David Bivens
President,
IUP SGA

Wow, what a class act this Bivens must be. It's embarrassing that he represents so many.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Ms. Lee C. Vest published on March 23, 2011 12:47 PM.

Student Co-Op board denies budget for The Penn was the previous entry in this blog.

Global Alert -- April 3, 2011 is the next entry in this blog.

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