SGA president censured over election troubles

by Hanna Lesky – Staff Writer – hlesky@unca.edu

Controversy ensued last week when Student Government Association senate censured its president.

“I motioned to censure President Judge because I do not believe he carried out his obligations to the student body to the best of his abilities,” said Senior Senator Jon Ledford.

A censure is a formal recognition a member did something wrong.  It is not a punishment, but will be put on SGA record.

“I think it’s important to just learn from your mistakes and recognize when one’s been made, and even though it was a small thing, I understand what happened.  I completely understand the senate’s actions,” said SGA President Benjamin Judge.

Judge withheld the date of the SGA inauguration from the Elections Commissioner, which led to the senate censure.

The election process has a specific timeframe that includes at least one week for students to apply to run for SGA positions. Elections Commissioner Pete McKelvey had a few weeks to write a bill about elections for the senate to pass.

“It seems to me the most important thing we do as an organization is to hold our elections.  It is when the student body holds us accountable. The past few elections have been treated a bit apathetically, and are occasionally scandalous,” Ledford said.

Last year, students like McKelvey were vocal about multiple concerns regarding SGA, such as the amount of time given for voting.

“In an effort to address these problems, we have sought to reform the way we handle elections. Most pertinently, this year we decided to give our Election Commissioner a stipend, in the hopes that the position would become more relevant and more full time. This, we hoped, would give higher priority to our elections,” Ledford said.

According to Ledford, this election was not more efficient than previous ones.

“I believe President Judge’s negligence defeated the point of having a full time Elections Commissioner and wasted students’ money that went to paying an Elections Commissioner. We spent money so we could have someone work on nothing but elections, and, in my opinion, President Judge’s negligence defeated that effort and has forced us to have yet another rushed, half-baked election,” Ledford said.

The commissioner did not agree the president was solely responsible for what happened.

“I definitely would have appreciated more communication with Ben Judge, but there’s a lot of people that could have communicated with me a lot earlier,” McKelvey said.

McKelvey could have waited longer to start the election process, but he said starting later would cause difficulties.

“The legislation, the way it’s worded right now, says that I can wait until March 31st to have elections. That doesn’t make any sense, because that’s never going to work, not for when inauguration is scheduled for, but also the transitional period from one student government class to the next.  That whole exchanging and teaching, and all that sort of stuff takes a few weeks, and if we do elections at the end of March, we don’t have that time because we run into exams,” McKelvey said.

The trouble with elections could be part of a bigger problem.

“It’s the bylaws in the constitution that should be fixed.  Jon Ledford has kind of latched onto this thing about Ben Judge not communicating with me, but I mean, I was going by the constitution, and the constitution was flawed, so maybe the legislation should be fixed,” McKelvey said.

The SGA constitution includes required amounts of time in every aspect of the election process.

“Basically, as the constitution says, you need to have first at least one week in which students can apply to run for student government, and first off, I think one week is not nearly long enough.  I made sure we had two weeks this year, but it’s still not publicized very well because I was kind of rushed with getting that out,” McKelvey said.

The process also requires two days of reviewing applications to make sure candidates meet minimum requirements to run for SGA, as well as a five day period for campaigning and at least two consecutive school days within that period for voting.

After that, there must be a three-week transitional period before the inauguration.

“Of course that doesn’t work with inauguration going to happen well before that time, and so it all just ends up in the air.  That’s how the constitution is written, and the constitution also says that the elections commissioner can wait until the end of March in order to have elections, but that’s never going to be a realistic time,” McKelvey said.

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