Commuter Senator Chris Bobbitt not allowed to serve on SGA

Laura Browne
Assistant News Editor
lbrowne@unca.edu

Despite being elected to fulfill the position of commuter senator in the Student Government Association, senior Chris Bobbitt has not been allowed to serve so far this semester. This leaves commuter students without a senator representing them.

UNC Asheville’s senate bylaws allot up to three senators to serve as a commuter senator. According to Bobbitt, he was the only individual to run for the position and therefore the only one elected.

“Given that the other types of students have their representatives there, commuters have not had a representative because I have not been allowed to speak,” Bobbitt said.

SGA President Michael Davis declined an interview to speak on Bobbitt’s status as a senator on behalf of himself and Vice President Kimani Anderson. Additionally, SGA advisor and Director of International Student Services Robert Straub declined an interview on the matter. Bill Haggard, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs did not respond to a request for an interview.  

Bobbitt said Davis and Anderson explained he could not fulfill his position due to the fact that he missed the swearing-in ceremony for his position and two SGA meetings under the current administration that took place in the spring.

Bobbitt acknowledges he missed the meetings, though claims that at the time, he did not know they were in affiliation with the new Davis-Anderson administration.

“I was unaware that the incoming administration would be doing anything during that semester,” Bobbitt said of his failure to attend. “I was unaware that there would be a transition period that didn’t occur as soon as this semester started. So, I missed the last couple of meetings we had.”

According to former SGA Vice President Lauren Bulla, the two unexcused absences Bobbitt claims to have do not violate the SGA constitution.

“Considering that Senator Bobbitt missed the allotted amount of meeting absences, I do not understand a reason as to remove him from office,” Bulla said in an email.

Chris Bobbitt, SGA commuter senator is not allowed to serve due to absences. Photo by Maxx Harvey.

Bobbitt additionally did not know that he would not be allowed to be sworn into his elected position during this semester and spoke to Straub on the matter.

“I was specifically told by Robert that ‘you don’t have a position on the senate because you were never sworn in’ to which I insisted ‘I can be sworn in right now,’” Bobbitt said, paraphrasing the conversation with Straub. Bobbitt went on to say Straub told him,“‘That’s not how it works.’ Well, I’m not aware of anything in our bylaws that that is not how it works.”

Bulla holds that none of the organization’s regulations specifically prohibit members from serving on SGA in the case of a missed swearing-in ceremony.

“I am no longer in SGA and have no knowledge of the inner workings of this administration so I don’t know all of the details,” Bulla said. “This is a breach of the bounds of the SGA Constitution and bylaws. There’s nothing that I can locate in the Constitution bylaws that condemn members of SGA to removal from office if they fail to attend the inauguration ceremony so I don’t understand this reasoning either.”

A meeting between Bobbitt, Davis, Anderson and Straub on Sept. 5 regarding Bobbitt’s position on SGA concluded that the senate would be able to give their suggestions to Anderson in an upcoming SGA meeting as to whether or not Bobbitt will be allowed to serve as commuter senator for the rest of the school year.

“The impetus going into that meeting was that I was just not going to be allowed to participate and after stating ‘obviously I want to be here, I’m showing up, there’s nothing preventing you from swearing me in,’ they did agree to allow the senate to give a recommendation to the vice president,” Bobbitt said.

Bobbitt’s fate as a senator depends on the senate’s recommendation and Anderson’s decision to accept whatever recommendation is made.

While Bobbitt accepts fault for having missed the swearing-in ceremony in addition to the current administration’s two meetings last year because of a work obligation, he did not know the consequence his absences would lead to.

“I’ll fully admit my mistakes here that I didn’t attend these meetings—I was given their time and location beforehand,” Bobbitt said. “However, I was not under the impression that if I failed to attend them I would be removed from my position that I was elected to.”

Bobbitt chalks his current status in SGA up to what he views as a lack of communication from the administration.

“I would like to clarify that I don’t have any functional disagreements with Michael or Kimani about this, but there is a clear breakdown in the process and the communication between the incoming administration and myself,” Bobbitt said. “I was obviously not under the belief that missing any of what I missed would preclude me from participating this semester.”

Bobbitt also alleges he was not informed about his inability to serve until shortly before the school year began.

“I think it would have been beneficial to the organization for transparency if I had been reached out to either last semester or over the summer saying ‘because you missed the swearing in ceremony and because you missed these meetings we don’t think that we can keep you in the organization,’ rather than having it sprung up on me at the last moment, which is what occured,” Bobbitt said. “It was a day before the semester started when I found out that I was no longer in the organization.”

Before Bobbitt was informed that not being able to serve was related to his absences, he was under the impression that it had to do with inflammatory remarks he made last semester regarding the past administration that were published in the Blue Banner.  Following his meeting with the administration on Sept. 5, Bobbitt has a different opinion.

“I am hopeful that my personal remarks about people that were formerly serving is not the reason,” Bobbitt said.

Bobbitt’s circumstance caused a minor issue during the SGA meeting on Sept. 5. Although he had already been informed at the first meeting of the semester that he would not be allowed to function as a senator and could only observe from the gallery, Bobbitt still participated in the meeting by making a motion for a bill to be read.

The bill which was passed unanimously declaring Senator Jackson Myers as legislative librarian had to be read and voted upon a second time due to the fact Bobbitt made the motion for the bill to be read.

“You can’t make a motion, Chris, until you’re on the senate,” Anderson said at the Sept. 5 SGA meeting, following the bill’s first and invalid passage. “We have to have somebody else make the motion.”

The bill was still passed unanimously following the second vote.

At the first SGA meeting of the semester on Aug. 29, Anderson made it clear that Bobbitt would not be allowed to serve on the senate for the time as he had not responded to an email which Bobbitt says asked him to set up a conference time with the administration prior to the meeting.

“Chris, you actually never responded to my email on time to set up to continue being on the senate,” Anderson said at the Aug. 29 SGA meeting. “Therefore, you’re going to have to be a part of the gallery for this meeting until you send me an email asking to be reinstated, or send an email to Rob. So if you will please just scoot your chair toward the wall, that would be appreciated.”

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