Belmont’s Student Government Association attempted to pass an amendment Monday night to change presidential candidate requirements, a move which seemed at least partially motivated to block a particular student from running.
Danny Zydel, a junior, last semester organized a word-of-mouth, write-in campaign for office against the current president. He came within 10 votes of forcing a special runoff election. His attempts ultimately failed and does not serve on congress now, but he previously served two semesters in SGA.
The amendment debated Monday aimed to change the current requirements for running for president by specifying that candidates must have served in congress the semester immediately prior to the election, which Zydel has not. Currently, candidates must serve at least two semesters in congress, though these don’t need to be consecutive.
“There’s rumors that he, Danny Zydel, would run for president, and I think that it’s unfair to make a whole entire constitutional amendment about one person or one issue,” said sophomore representative Erica Rivero.
Earlier this semester, congress voted not to approve Zydel for a vacant seat in SGA after he was appointed by SGA president Jeanette Morelan. Congress members voted against him saying he acted inappropriately during his term on congress and by running the write-in campaign.
Zydel, who is planning to run for president this spring, said he was surprised by Monday night’s amendment.
“I think that it would block off potential in the future,” he said. “There are exceptions to every rule, and some people may be inhibited.”
Rivero, who was against the amendment, said students like Zydel can be passionate about SGA without having to serve the exact term before.
“I do know people that have run and dropped for various reasons, and they’re still passionate about SGA and they’re still passionate about the students,” said Rivero.
“I don’t think we should make an entire amendment because of one person and our issue with that one person,” said Rivero, who later said she overstepped her boundaries in sharing information to the Vision about Zydel.
Junior representative Cole Thannisch and freshman Katie Wiseman co-authored the amendment, which deals with the rapid change of culture in SGA, in light of SGA passing more resolutions this semester.
Thannisch approached Wiseman to help write the amendment. She said it is necessary to have a chief executive who is familiar with what congress is currently working on. She did not say it was related to one specific student.
“There needs to be a way to ensure the success we have had this semester continues,” she said.
Congress debated the amendment for 20 minutes, with multiple representatives voicing their opinions. Supporters of the bill worried about continuity problems, while those against contended it would restrict student involvement in SGA.
Morelan was given a chance to speak during the debate after a representative deferred her time to Morelan. Morelan gave an impassioned case against the amendment.
“It is the student’s voice, and it is the students who put you in this room,” Morelan said.
In her argument against the amendment, Rivero referenced the previous election where only one party was on the ticket and said there is no need to make elections more restrictive.
In an anonymous ballot of 17 yays and 16 nays, congress struck down the measure. Although there were 17 yays, all legislation needs a two-thirds majority for approval, meaning the measure was still defeated.
The amendment was one of 12 items congress debated during Monday night’s meeting.
Following a constitutional convention last Saturday, the 12 pieces of legislation were introduced, the most in one meeting in recent SGA history. Vice president Skyler Schmanski said he was proud of the output of congress and sees this as a sign of great things to come.
“We have truly come into our own,” Schmanski said.
Resolutions ranging from inquiries over resident assistants’ compensation to pedestrian safety were introduced and debated on the floor. Amendments clarifying language in the constitution were also introduced and will be available for voting on BruinLink.
To be adopted by congress, any amendment needs a three-fourths vote of approval from the student body. Amendments are only put up for a student vote after being approved by two-thirds of congress.
SGA’s next meeting is Monday Nov. 17 at 5 p.m.
This article was written by Will Hadden and Kirk Bado.