SGA 101: What you need to know before elections

SGA presidential elections begin on March 5. Graphic by Elizabeth Hein



With Student Government Association (SGA) elections less than a month away, students have a right to know what they are voting for. The rules and responsibilities of the roles that people are voting on are outlined through six different types of governing documents, which are available on SGA’s website. These include the general constitution and general bylaws, the SGA charter as well as a set of rules and procedures outlining the responsibilities of each branch. These pages outline what it means to be a part of SGA, but what does all of the information truly signify? 

Executive branch 

The SGA executive branch is governed by the Executive Rules and Procedures. It includes eight articles detailing membership policies, the director appointment process, meeting procedures, the duties of each position and the duties of the branch as a whole. 

The branch consists of the student body president, the vice president, the chief of staff, the board of directors, the executive secretary and the executive staff. Each director has their own board of students who are selected by the president and serve on the executive staff. 

Senior psychology major Katie Stanley is the current president of SGA, and Elijah Heslop, a senior philosophy-psychology major, is the current interim vice president. They are the only elected officials in the branch, as the board of directors is nominated by the president, with advice from the vice president, and confirmed by the senate. The chief of staff is appointed by the president-elect, while the executive staff is selected by the president through an application and interview process. 

“Anybody in the organization can resign at any one time,” Stanley said. “For example, directors, if they want to resign, would send a letter of resignation to the chief of staff. However, the chief of staff is not a confirmed position. They report directly to the president, so I can fire [the chief of staff], but I can’t fire a director because they’re confirmed. They would have to be impeached.” 

The chief of staff and the members of the executive staff are fully selected by the president, which means that they are not considered voting members. To be a voting member means to be able to vote on any matters specifically pertaining to the executive branch. 

The president, vice president, board of directors and the chief of staff are each required to hold at least two public office hours per week to address student questions, comments and concerns. There is also a concern form on the SGA’s Engage

“We take all student comments very seriously,” Stanley said. “In every meeting, we start with students. I really would like students to know that everything from the timing of the Dawg Pound chant at the basketball games to serious campus crises, such as weather emergencies, come up during [cabinet meetings].” 

The presidential duties include but are not limited to, having the ability to sign on or veto any legislation passed by the student senate, coordinating student representation in Butler committees and delivering the semesterly states of the student government addresses. The president also creates executive orders, which are documents that govern how SGA operates. 

“Part of my job is signing resolutions and vetoing [executive orders],” Stanley said. “If I don’t veto a resolution within five days, it goes into effect anyway, my signature just doesn’t go on it. That’s something I feel like people don’t realize. So, if something controversial, per se, that I didn’t want my name associated with, I could pocket veto it, and it would still take effect but without my signature.” 

The president also oversees the Executive Cabinet Advisory Board. The board is composed of student representatives from 10 recognized student organizations or campus entities. The president, with the vote of the executive branch, reserves the right to add additional organizations. 

The president’s focus is overseeing the executive branch, SGA and student body concerns, while the vice president focuses on finances. Creating the SGA annual operating budget, supervising the distribution of senate-approved funds to recognized student organizations and maintaining records of SGA expenditures are some of the vice presidential duties. The vice president also has meetings with the legislative and judicial branch’s finance chairs. 

Legislative branch 

SGA’s legislative branch is outlined in its Rules and Procedures document, which was ratified in September of 2021. This document outlines all procedures for senate meetings, the office of the speaker, the duties of senators and the ratification and amendment process. 

The purpose of the legislative branch is to represent the voices of all students. Its duties as a whole include chartering student organizations, allocating finances to student organizations, ratifying the annual SGA operating budget and serving as final policymaking authority through the use of resolutions. 

AJ Boes, a senior economics and sociology double major, serves as the speaker of the senate within the legislative branch. 

The speaker of the senate is the leader of the legislative branch. The speaker of the senate presides over all legislative meetings, schedules legislative meetings, oversees student senate committees, appoints and manages other senate officers and fulfills other duties as the senate sees fit during the two legislative sessions. 

The student senate elects this position from its own numbers. The speaker takes over from their predecessor at the end of the spring semester. The speaker holds the power to run for reelection if all qualifications are met. Boes said he reviews the bylaws and procedures at least once a week. 

“I’m always needing a refresh [because] we have over 100 pages of bylaws,” Boes said. “It’s really hard to remember them all. Every week I am using our online documents just to make sure that I am doing my job correctly and that other senators are doing their [jobs].” 

The rules and procedures specify the deadlines and requirements of the branch, including how all resolutions made by SGA and that appear on the senate meeting agenda must be made public 24 hours before a meeting. Boes said there is a lot of transparency between himself and the general Butler population. The governing documents ensure that he is doing his job responsibly by requiring him to keep the senate meetings open to the public and posting resolutions online. 

The legislative branch is responsible for ensuring that the student senate is accessible to the student body and making accommodations to ensure that this is possible. 

“[Student senate meetings] are open to the public so anyone can come to them,” Boes said. “They occur weekly at 7 p.m. in the Reilly Room on Wednesdays. We’re required to be open.” 

Additionally, students can come to any senate meeting, and can submit concerns to the branch. Students can submit concerns on the senate feedback form under the legislative branch tab on SGA’s website. These concerns are read at the beginning of each senate meeting, where Boes reads the first 200 words of the statement. 

The student senate is composed of 20 undergraduate senators, including two senators who represent every class, and 12 senators who represent the six colleges. Each college is allotted one senator, with the remaining six senators being allocated to the colleges based on proportional representation. 

The student senate has an established system of standing committees, that each have a specific area of legislation and student advocacy. The speaker of the senate appoints senators to each committee from the membership of the student senate. Each senator serves on at least one committee

A proxy is an individual who serves in place of a senator if they cannot attend an individual meeting. Proxies can be anyone except another senator. Senators are limited to three proxies a semester. 

Any absence from a regularly scheduled senate meeting without a proxy present or a valid excuse is grounds for impeachment and removal of position. Senators have the opportunity to appeal absences to the judicial branch, which has the final decision on whether the absence was excusable. 

Judicial branch 

The judicial branch of SGA consists of a chief justice and six justices, as well as a court clerk. Each justice is appointed by the president and is confirmed by the student senate through an affirmative majority vote. Justices are appointed to a term of two years, which ends at the same time as the spring semester. 

The branch is responsible for ruling on all matters, issues and controversies that are related to SGA. All rulings made by the judicial branch are made on the foundation of the constitution and the bylaws. 

The judicial branch also works with everything that envelopes elections. The judicial branch is in charge of forming the Election Oversight Committee which is responsible for planning and running both the senatorial and presidential elections of SGA. 

Will Kissel, senior computer science and computer engineering double major, acts as the chief justice of the judicial branch. Kissel described what the Election Oversight Committee does in more detail and its importance in the branch. 

“It’s unique in that it is managed by the chair of elections instead of the chief justice,” Kissel said. “They take on more of a leading role in that and lead all the meetings and make the plans and manage the applications.” 

Kissel emphasized that with all of the things that the judicial branch has to manage — including judicial review of all resolutions, executive orders and vetoes and conduct issues — it is important that elections are not forgotten. They must continue to be upheld to a greater standard when there are all of the aforementioned responsibilities as well. 

The judicial branch is the main branch to handle impeachments. To start an impeachment, any full-time undergraduate student can submit a complaint against any member of SGA, which is then reviewed by the judicial court. 

“We do any investigation necessary, we call a hearing if necessary, and if that hearing produces enough reason to act, then we will come up with articles of impeachment and forward them to the senate to be voted on,” Kissel said. 

During the hearing evidence, documents and witnesses can be reviewed. The member on trial can also provide their own evidence and argue their defense. 

All documents in their entirety are listed on SGA’s website at Students are also encouraged to send in feedback to the various branches of SGA by attending executive office hours, using the senate feedback form or sending a complaint using one of the various complaint forms on the SGA Engage page


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