Without amendment, SGA committee may not fill

Photo by Ryan Love

The Butler University Student Government Association hopes to settle confusion over the eligibility of some members who sit on a key election committee.

A vote is scheduled in this afternoon’s assembly on whether to suspend a provision of the SGA constitution that requires members of the Election Oversight Committee to have served at least two consecutive semesters in SGA assembly.

The EOC plays a major role in SGA elections.  The committee sets election dates, oversees budgets, enforces campaign rules and verifies election results.

Four students elected last semester to the seven-person committee are freshmen. They are now the focus of eligibility concerns after EOC chair James Schubert, himself a freshman, grew concerned with the eligibility of the current committee.

Those in favor of the possible suspension say that there are not enough willing upperclassmen to fill the committee. Those opposed to it say freshmen should not be allowed to serve on the committee because they are inexperienced.

The language in the SGA bylaws previously had been construed as allowing freshmen to serve on the EOC, as long as they simultaneously were a representative in assembly during their first two semesters.

Found in Article XI, Section 1, of the constitution, the tenure clause was initially inserted as an amendment two years ago.

“That was back in a time in SGA when we didn’t talk about things very much,” parliamentarian AJ Teare said.

A suspension of the semester requirement, which requires a two-thirds vote, is expected to be temporary.  Teare said SGA plans to eventually amend its constitution to plainly permit all SGA representatives to sit on the EOC, regardless of semesters served.

“We’re going to do that later with a bunch of other changes,” Teare said.  “This [potential suspension] is just so we can run effectively, legally to the constitution.”

Former EOC chair Anna Roueche said she’s not so sure the two-semesters language actually bars freshmen.

When she headed the committee two years ago, freshmen did serve.

Teare said he expects the rule suspension to be approved.

“I’m 100 percent sure,” he said.

Last Wednesday the committee introduced the topic orally as an assembly announcement.  Today EOC eligibility is on the agenda as new business.

Council on Presidential Affairs Chair Mike Tirman said the matter may be put to a vote, even though SGA ordinarily would not vote on new business, because the issue was broached a week ago. He said that gives representatives the typical week to weigh their decision.

Tirman said it’s important to resolve uncertainty about the committee.

“What’s going on is really to clarify,” Tirman said. “Although I am never in favor of just changing the constitution frivolously, this is one point where it makes sense because we want it to be understandable to the next generation of EOC members who have to read it and make a judgment call.”

Roueche said only allowing students with two prior semesters in assembly to join the EOC would limit the pool of available talent.

“Except for my freshman year, I feel like it’s been a real struggle to get seven people to serve (on the EOC),” Roueche said.  “It’s like pulling teeth, really.”

Freshman music theory major Nathan Smith said he supports the idea of students benefitting from semesters of learning before joining the EOC.

“You need to understand the university and the organization,” Smith said. “I really do believe you need some form of experience.”

But Roueche said she ran eagerly, though unsuccessfully, for election to EOC as a freshman.

“I had lots of ideas,” she said.  “I think discounting freshmen disregards any experience they might have had in high school or fresh ideas and new perspectives.”

Teare said many of the top candidates for the EOC are freshmen, and that is why he and many others in SGA believe the constitution needs to be amended to guarantee eligibility for all representatives who are otherwise in good standing.

While the EOC prepares for spring elections, they are waiting for a firm resolution that could come as soon as today if the vote to suspend the two-consecutive-semesters rule is successful.

“We don’t want someone to come back and say, ‘Well, this EOC isn’t legitimate in the first place,’” Teare said. “That’s what I want to get fixed and run smoothly from here out.”

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