Proposal attempts to widen contender pool

By Liz Ratto

With direct elections around the corner, an amendment was put before Joint Senate to reduce the number of weeks a senator must be part of the association to be eligible to run for president

MJ Paradiso, vice president for academic affairs for the Student Government Association (SGA), presented the amendment, which he later withdrew after a heated debate Thursday.

The SGA constitution requires presidential candidates have senatorial status for 25 weeks in order to be nominated. Paradiso’s amendment decreased the requirement to 20 weeks, adding a senator must be a student at Northeastern for at least three semesters, in hopes of compromising for this year’s elections, which are two week’s earlier than in past years.

“The large reason why I proposed the amendment was because I wanted to see compromise between the two sides,” Paradiso said. “It was a divisive issue and as we move toward direct elections, I think we have to be a united senate.”

Senators who supported the amendment saw it as a way to include potential nominees with significant involvement in SGA, while ensuring students had spent enough time at Northeastern to understand the university.

Senator Stephen Lavenberg, a sophomore, said because nominations are earlier this year than they have been in the past, keeping the 25-weeks requirement essentially increased the amount of time a potential nominee would need senatorial status.

Senators who opposed the amendment, however, maintained that even with three semesters as a student, a candidate must have extensive experience within SGA to be able to govern efficiently.

“If you’re the president everyone else comes to you for advice,” middler senator Rob Ranley said at the meeting. “If you can’t answer the questions and solve the problems, the rest of the organization will crumble. Experience does not equal months.”

Supporters saw the amendment as a way to present more candidates to the student body and not exclude senators who have made an impact in the organization, but are just shy of serving for 25 weeks.

Paradiso said his proposal would offer the most complete pool of candidates, and that it is up to the student body to choose who they want to see as a leader.

Lavenberg agreed, saying he fears the number of candidates presented to the student body will be limited.

“It won’t look good to the students if we only give them one person,” Lavenberg said.

The number of people available to step forward to take on leadership has already decreased, Paradiso said. By not passing this amendment “we are not allowing others who are ready to take that step forward.”

Sophomore senator Steve Osipow said experience and qualifications do not translate into numbers.

“It takes a certain amount of charisma and talent to become president of anything,” Osipow said at the joint senate meeting. “I know senators who served 20 weeks that are freshman that I would be honored to follow. It’s not a weakness; it shows strength.”

While supporters of the amendment felt it would improve the pool, those opposed to it worried that reducing the number of required weeks was too reactionary, and could be interpreted by constituents as a lowering of standards.

“This has always been an issue and we’ve relaxed the requirement because we wanted to make it more open, but we have to draw the line somewhere,” said Senator Bill Durkin, a senior and former SGA president.

Freshman Senator Sarah Muller agreed that changing the constitution would send the wrong message, but both Muller and Durkin said if there was a particular senator who wished to run but did not meet the requirement, they could support suspending the rules for someone who was truly qualified.

“The bylaws may be suspended,” Paradiso said. “My goal was to not do it for one person but create a lasting effect for the organization.”

Paradiso said he did not want to provide for any one senator, but to balance out the week requirement to reflect the earlier nominations.

“My worry is not about certain people now, it’s just the notion of having a motivated senator come in, work really hard and then not be able to run,” Paradiso said. “It’s not the senate’s responsibility to decide who is qualified [to be president] and who is not, it’s the students’ responsibility.”

– Staff writer Mary Ann Georgantopoulos contributed to this report.

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