What was meant to be a vote on the Phi Delta Theta resolution turned into a debate over parts of the SGA constitution at Monday night’s congressional meeting.
SGA President Chase Geiser informed congress in the opening minutes of the meeting that he had asked the sponsors of the resolution to back down.
Geiser told congress he did this because parts of the resolution were “too intense,” specifically the portion regarding Amy Coles of Student Affairs.
The resolution also didn’t make it to the floor due to the fact that it wasn’t presented to congress in accordance with SGA’s constitutional bylaws.
According to the bylaws, legislation first has to be sent to the vice president 24 hours before it goes out to the rest of congress. The vice president then must send the legislation to all members of congress one week before it’s brought up for a vote.
This is where the debate began.
Representative Johnny Murphy, one of the resolution’s sponsors, emailed the document to congress first without sending it to Vice President Emily Young.
However, SGA’s Policy Review committee, which has the power to interpret constitutional bylaws, said that while members have the “responsibility” to send documents to the vice president first, as stated in the bylaw, it doesn’t mean that they “must” send them.
There was further disagreement over Policy Review’s interpreting of whether or not Geiser overstepped his authority as president. Prior to the meeting, several members of congress voiced concern that Geiser was too involved when the resolution was coming together, and he shouldn’t have been asking members of congress to sponsor the bill.
Policy Review sent an email to all members of congress prior to the meeting saying that the committee had determined that Geiser didn’t influence the sponsors and therefore had not overstepped his authority. As soon as he was aware of this email, Geiser sent a second email to congress making it explicitly clear that he had in fact overstepped his authority because he had indeed influenced the sponsors.
When the emails and Geiser’s contradiction came up at the meeting, the Policy Review committee responded by saying that Geiser wasn’t at fault for influencing the sponsors, as opposed to their earlier stance that Geiser did not influence the sponsors at all.
Congress spent the remainder of the meeting debating the issue of Policy Review’s interpretations of the bylaw and Geiser’s actions.
Among those voicing their concerns was Representative Jeanette Morelan, who was initially asked by Geiser to sponsor the resolution but backed down because she felt that it was the author of the bill’s job to look for sponsors, not the president’s.
Geiser had no comment following the meeting.
In an emailed statement, Morelan had this to say about the meeting:“I think that Monday night was one of the healthiest and most important conversations that we have had as an organization. It was really an opportunity to hold ourselves accountable and realize some potential weaknesses in our constitutional framework. My participation in Monday night helped me to realize that it’s the desire of many members of congress to have more say over the interpretational powers of Policy Review. Myself and several other members of SGA are in the process of drafting an amendment which would allow congress to overrule an interpretation of Policy Review by a majority vote. In this way, congress will be able to more accurately reflect the needs and desires of the students, as well as holding ourselves to the standards that define our organization. Although Monday night was a difficult situation, I think in no way was it a schism within the organization but rather the opportunity to strengthen our sense of community within SGA. I’m proud of all congress members for expressing their opinion, especially in a moment when it was difficult to stand up for what was right.”