SGA approves first direct elections

In spring 2007, the entire Northeastern undergraduate student body will vote for the president of the Student Government Association (SGA) for the first time, due to an historic motion passed by the student senate Monday.

During the two-hour Joint Senate, SGA approved the motion and all necessary amendments to the constitution and bylaws to make direct elections a reality. The senate also opened nominations for next year’s executive board officers, passed additional amendments to create a new committee and set specific requirements for senators to have voting rights.

The Senate Nominations and Elections Committee (SNEC) and SGA executive board unanimously submitted the motion that called for the senate to endorse direct elections as defined in the Direct Elections Manual.

The motion emphasizes how direct elections will further empower student government by involving the student body in SGA. It also outlines the history of action toward direct elections, beginning in 1991 when SGA President Sandra Major created a committee to renovate the system of electing officers to include more of the student body.

With less than five minutes of debate, the motion passed 56-1, with one abstention. Many senators and members of the executive board said they had been expecting a longer debate and were surprised by how easily the motion passed.

Adriana Campos, vice president for administration and public relations and chair of SNEC, said she attributed the easy passage of the motion to her committee’s hard work addressing all senators’ concerns, making sure the Direct Elections Manual was fully explained and providing all information prior to the Joint Senate.

After the vote was final, President Ashley Adams asked the senate to take a moment and consider the history that had just taken place.

“I’ve never been so excited in my whole life,” Adams said.

Senator Valeria Gioioso cast the only vote against the motion. She said her main concern is that important election considerations include how candidates treat other senators and how they work within SGA. Gioioso said the student body cannot fully evaluate those abilities unless they have watched the candidate all year long.

Gioioso said she sat on SNEC all year and, if direct elections are to be implemented, the Direct Elections Manual is the best it will get on the first try. Still, she said she just couldn’t vote for it.

Campos next presented amendments to the constitution and bylaws, which called for SNEC to be replaced by the Rules Committee, a new committee that will be chaired by the parliamentarian and in charge of nominations and elections, legislation, parliamentary procedure and the history and traditions of SGA.

All the amendments regarding elections passed with little debate and were finalized less than an hour after the start of the meeting.

The other major topic at Monday’s meeting was the opening of nominations for the president and five vice presidents of the SGA executive board. Adams will continue to accept nominations until elections April 11.

Juniors Rogan O’Handley, current vice president for student services, and Allyson Savin, former vice president for student affairs, accepted nominations for president at the meeting. Savin, an international business and marketing major, said she is “thrilled and excited for the opportunity” to run for president.

Savin has been involved in SGA since her freshman year, when she was assistant vice president (AVP) for student affairs. Savin said she recently took time off from SGA to serve as the president of the Council for University Programs (CUP) last year.

O’Handley, a dual political science and criminal justice major, has been on senate for nearly two years and said he was “extremely honored” to receive a nomination for president. If elected, he said he is “looking forward to bringing prestige to the senate and a voice to the students.”

As of press time, only the races for president, executive vice president for student affairs and vice president for administration and public relations had more than one candidate.

Freshman senator Andrew Alperin and middler senators George Gottschalk and Danielle Burckson accepted nominations for the executive vice presidency. Three senators accepted nominations for vice president for administration and public relations: freshman senators Christian Toczko and Stephen Lavenberg, and sophomore senator Krystal Beaulieu.

The currently uncontested candidates include: freshman MJ Paradiso, current AVP for academic affairs, for vice president for academic affairs; freshman Susan Dye, current AVP for student services, for vice president for student services and freshman Christopher Kelley, current AVP for financial affairs, for vice president for financial affairs.

Two proposed amendments, which were presented at the previous Joint Senate March 20 but withdrawn for clarification and editing, were also reintroduced at the meeting Monday.

Former Presidents Bill Durkin and Michael Benson sponsored a proposed amendment to the bylaws, which caused the longest debate of the meeting. The amendment grants senators voting rights in joint senate meetings only after “having been a member [of SGA] for four weeks in any given semester.”

Durkin said the purpose is to require senators to have experience and be acclimated to the procedures and process of SGA before being able to vote in elections or on amendments. They would still be able to vote in regular senate meetings.

The main concern of those opposed to the amendment was that the requirement of four weeks was too high and that, especially with the adoption of direct elections, the SGA should not be limiting student participation in its procedures.

The amendment passed with 46 yea votes and two “nay with rights” votes, which allowed Senators Heidi Buchanan and Gioioso to address the senate after the vote was final on why they opposed it.

“Experience does not come with a time limit,” said Buchanan, who earlier asked to lessen the minimum requirement to two weeks. “I’m one of the more senior senators in the room and half the time I don’t know what’s going on.”

Gioioso said it was wrong to deny voting rights to people who may have attended senate meetings throughout the year and possessed knowledge of SGA procedure, but were not officially senators for four weeks.

The other proposal, sponsored by Billy Haddad, vice president for financial affairs, concerned the replacement of the University Budget Committee and the Financial Aid Advisory Council with a new committee called the Financial Affairs Committee.

The new committee would be chaired by the vice president for financial affairs and encompass the duties of the previous committees, which include addressing the areas of student financial services and financial aid, customer service and the university budgetary process.

The senate unanimously adopted all the necessary amendments to the constitution and bylaws regarding the new committee.

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