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SGA vetoes controversial amendment

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A proposed Student Government Association (SGA) amendment has ignited controversy within the group and brought the SGA election process under scrutiny.  During a Jan. 5 Student Government Association (SGA) meeting, members held their annual constitutional review session where proposed changes to the organization’s constitution were debated and reviewed.

One of these amendments — which would disallow students not in SGA’s general body from running for president or vice president — started arguments between members, highlighting the ideological rifts that divide the organization.

According to the proposed amendment, in order to run for either position, the candidate “must have served at least one previous term within the general body of SGA.” A general body term is defined as the beginning of either a spring or fall election through the next spring election.

Previously, the language within the constitution only specified that potential presidential candidates needed to have served on SGA. The new proposal specifically excludes SGA liaisons, who are representatives from other student organizations that attend the weekly SGA meetings.

The amendment did not pass, with a final vote of 10 yeas, eight nays and one abstention.

When the amendment was first proposed, Senator for Intercultural Awareness Michael Lynch was one of the first to speak up about his distaste in an email sent to the general body.

“Any person that has spent a year involved in SGA, and understands the role SGA plays should be eligible to run for the top leadership positions,” Lynch said.

Similarly, Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Michael Greene said he thinks limiting the voting pool to members of the general body excludes people who may have valuable qualities to offer to the presidency.

Along with limiting the voting pool, there have also been allegations of favoritism within the group mostly directed at President Ric Popp and Megan Scoville.

“There are more people outside of DePaul’s SGA that are not only qualified but (know) more about the administration and the students that attend this school, than those who sit on cabinet,” Greene said.. “(…) I say this as someone who is sitting on cabinet.,” he said.

Senator for Mission and Values Gracie Covarrubias said she sees the logic of wanting potential candidates to understand how SGA is run on a deeper level than liaisons do. Not many in the student body know what SGA does beyond their MAP grant advocacy campaign. Few know what goes on in meetings, who the senators are or that members are paid. She added that she thinks the amendment would have only created a deeper disconnect between the student population and the organization.

“I think this creates a greater divide, and that’s not something I’m for,” Covarrubias said.

Some students have echoed that sentiment, going as far to say that they believe any DePaul student should be able to run for president. Senior Michelle Velasquez believes the limited eligibility is more of a way to diminish the students’ voices, rather than benefiting the student body.

“As a body that represents students, (SGA) must grant us the right to choose who we want when it comes to those higher positions,” Velasquez said. “If we want to choose non-board members for vice president or president, we should be able to do that.”

DePaul senior Marlynn Sandoval expressed similar thoughts.

“I think that anyone should be allowed to participate, because what if they are educated and knowledgeable and politically involved?” Sandoval said. “I don’t see why they shouldn’t be able to run (solely because they aren’t directly involved with SGA.)”

Not very many students know what exactly the work of an SGA member entails.  Sandoval said she “follows (SGA) on Instagram,” but doesn’t know what they do. In reference to this idea, Covarrubias mentioned a DePaul student’s marketing research project that studied SGA’s impact on students and found the organization’s impact to be negligible.

“It’s pretty unanimous across the board that most of the student population doesn’t know what we do or doesn’t really think that we do anything,” Covarrubias said.

Limiting who can run for president might have created a further disconnect between SGA and the student body it is tasked to represent. Some within SGA, and some outside of it, felt the amendment could have prevented constructive dialogue and contributed to favoritism.

Despite the discontent expressed by members of the general body and student body at large, Executive Vice President for Operations Adriana Kemper said the amendment was not meant to promote exclusivity, but rather to clear up murky language within the constitution.

“It was not very clear (in the constitution) as to who could run (for president),” she said. “There was this gray area, like ‘are liaisons able to run?’”

Ultimately, she said, the constitutional review board  — which crafted the amendment — decided against including liaisons so as to clear up this gray area. She cited examples of previous non-general body members, such as last year’s Senator for Third Year Students Zoe Wildasin, who have decided to run for senator positions while serving as liaisons. 

She also said the amendment was also meant to ensure the person running would have the dedication necessary for the position.

“I’ve been friends with presidents in the past, and it’s been something they’ve wanted to do since their freshman year,” Kemper said. “When you do this position, you have to love the university and devote so much time and commitment to this position.”

Kemper added that since the amendment was not passed, the question of who will be able to run for president will be left to the discretion of the sitting president.

The next general body meeting is scheduled to be held on Thursday, Jan. 19, at 6 p.m. in the Lincoln Park Student Center. Any DePaul student, involved with SGA or not, is encouraged to attend.

Emma Krupp contributed to this story.

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SGA vetoes controversial amendment