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SGA passes amendment approving split-term cabinet members

Ashton Avelin ’22 spearheaded the movement to clarify SGA’s constitution, along with Elizabeth Collinger ’21. SGA approved split-term appointments. Photo by Max Fenton.

After three weeks of legislative deadlock and debate, the Student Senate confirmed next year’s split-term SGA Cabinet Appointees during Sunday’s meeting. In a campus-wide referendum sent out over spring break, the student body voted 292 to 41 to amend the SGA Constitution to allow split-term positions.

At the beginning of March, SGA executives nominated six people for Concerts Chair, All-Campus Events Chair and Diversity and Outreach Coordinator, proposing that appointees split the terms, allowing them to be involved in SGA and participate in off-campus study. There has been ongoing controversy among senators and executives over the constitutionality of this proposal, and the impact of split terms on continuity across semesters.

While some argued for the strong qualifications and experience of the appointees, others were concerned by the lack of precedent for the situation. The Constitution provided no clarification; the first section of the document contradicts its by-laws on the issue of term lengths, making it unclear whether Cabinet Members are allowed to split their positions. On March 10, Student Senate debated until 10:45 p.m. without reaching a conclusion on the issue.

“I found that to be not really an acceptable outcome,” said Clangrala Senator Ashton Aveling ’22. “It is the job of the Senate to provide cabinet-elects with a clear plan about how to go forward. The fact that we were just giving them a whole whirlwind of problems and concerns without any direction, was disturbing because that’s our job.” Frustrated with the stalemate, Aveling and fellow Clangrala representative Elizabeth Collinger ’21 took the initiative to clarify the constitutional ambiguity surrounding the issue.

Aveling and Collinger met with SGA Administrative Coordinator Dylan Welch to discuss starting a petition to amend the Constitution. After receiving edits and approval from Reform Committee, the amendment was sent out to the student body mid-break. In order to pass, at least 20% of students had to vote, and a two-thirds majority was required. By the last day of spring break, the votes were in and the amendment passed, approving a new amendment to the SGA Constitution.

The amendment allows split-term appointees to be considered by the Senate. It did not automatically confirm the appointees, or establish any precedent for split-term positions in the future.

On Sunday night, Phinn Lloyd ’21 was confirmed as the Concerts Chair for Fall 2019. Victoria Park ’21 will assume the position during the Spring 2020 semester. Both students have been involved with Concerts Committee since their first year.

Lloyd sees no reason to be concerned with continuity, because the job of organizing concerts is split by semester by nature. “The biggest communication thing Victoria and I need to do is not book the same artist,” he joked. “We’ve been doing this for two years now, so we know how this should be run.” According to Lloyd, he and Park have similar music tastes, but they also diverge in certain aspects. To him, the added diversity in the position will provide opportunities for refreshing differences, without sacrificing continuity.

Lana Katai ’21 was confirmed as ACE Chair for Fall 2019. She will share the position with Amelia Zoernig ’21, who serves in Spring 2020. As Student Senate President, Katai mediated recent negotiations, attempting to remain a neutral intermediary even as her own appointment was in question. She shares Lloyd’s view that split-term positions will be a refreshing experiment.

“Having split-cabinet position really pushes a refresh every semester, and if you find people who are able to work hard and do that, that’s a good thing.” Katai is skeptical of the more conservative arguments for sticking with precedent. “There has been continuity, and look how it’s gone. People are not abiding by their jobs in ways they promised they would and if that doesn’t speak to how continuity needs to be broken, I don’t know what else will.”

According to Katai, she and Zoernig will maintain the strong communication needed to ensure the transition between semesters runs smoothly. “I have absolute faith that [Zoering] is going to reach out to me about things going on here,” she said. Katai believes the mid-semester change will benefit the student body, providing more diverse representation. “I have a perspective that she doesn’t have, and she has a perspective that I don’t have, and those are going to be really valuable to each other when one of us isn’t there,” she said.

The other split-term cabinet position confirmed on Sunday night was the Diversity and Outreach Coordinator, which will be shared between Tucker Haddock ’21 and Syamala Gumidyala ’21.

Going forward, Aveling emphasized the importance of continuing to examine the ramifications of split-term positions. “It’s important that the reform committee actually think about the reforms that need to be made in-depth, and whether split-term is a good idea for each position individually, and what other provisions might need to be inserted in to make sure it’s a stable precedent going forward.” Though the recent Student Senate meetings have been chaotic, he expressed support for healthy debate over SGA issues. “Everyone in SGA should continue to engage in productive dialogue, talk honestly about what concerns them with certain issues, and be willing to really open up to each other and discuss things,” Aveling concluded.

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