Amendment to define speaker of Senate election process has passed Senate

By Erica Quinones

After years of no official process, the Student Government Association passed an amendment to the Constitution that defines the speaker of the Senate election process on Oct. 26.

While the amendment passed through the Senate, it must be ratified by the student body, according to Section VI, subsection C of the Constitution. The SGA plans for the amendment to be voted on during the spring’s general election, according to Parliamentarian and sophomore Natalie Wisnoski.

Currently, the Constitution lacks an in-depth description of the speaker of the Senate’s election process. Section I, subsection H of the Constitution says the speaker will be elected the week before spring break and that each senator who is not a nominee will vote by secret ballot. However, core aspects of the process are undefined. 

The Constitution does not state when or how those candidates are nominated, or what those nominees must do — give a speech, answer questions, etc. — during the election process.

Speaker of the Senate and senior Josh Gastineau and Wisnoski began defining those processes in spring 2021, according to Wisnoski. 

“I think that it was a clear issue that this process wasn’t formalized. Not that it allowed for anything wrongful to happen, but I’m sure it gives me — as well as others — an ease of conscious knowing that there is a formalized process,” Gastineau said.

In previous years, the election followed the basic outline in the Constitution, but the nomination process occurred on the same day as the election, according to Gastineau. 

“The speaker of the Senate election has kind of been done on an ad hoc basis,” Wisnoski said. “This amendment to the Constitution, it outlines the structure of the amendment step-by-step…It makes sure that every election is consistent and fair to all people running.”

The new amendment expanded that timeline, allowing senators to begin nominating candidates two weeks before spring break. Nominations will then be submitted on paper ballots into a submission box in the SGA Office.

“The two-week nomination process gives everybody time to think out and seriously consider who they want to be their speaker,” Wisnoski said.

The speaker sits on the Constitutional Review Board, represents the Senate, and introduces faculty members and administrators to senators. 

“I hope that it will give people more time to think about what this position means and what they want to do with this position,” Gastineau said. “I’m hoping somebody will…keep expanding on this position and what it means to serve the Senate, and what it means to bridge the gap between administrators and faculty.”

After the two-week nomination period, nominees will be read aloud at Senate. Each nominee requires a second. Once a second is voiced, the nominee can either accept or deny the nomination.

Accepted nominees will then move to the front of the Senate where they will answer three questions from the Executive Board and five questions from the Senate.

Executive Board questions will be pre-written, but Senate questions will be offered by the same body, according to Wisnoski. The speaker of the Senate — if they are not running for re-election — or the Parliamentarian will vet each senator’s question and decide if it is appropriate to be asked. 

The nominees will finish the process with a 45-second closing statement after the questioning. The Senate will then vote by secret ballot, either paper or electronic.  

Wisnoski said that this formalized process allows for transparency when explaining how the election operates while making the election fairer for all nominees. 

“Over COVID[-19], we talked a lot in the Review Board and the Executive Board about what we want, about clarity and transparency. And I think this is just another example of the SGA attempting to do that,” Gastineau said.

Gastineau also said that having a formalized process helps students uphold their rights by giving them legislative backing if a violation occurred. 

Procedural uniformity can also help encourage students to run, according to Gastineau, by informing them of what the process entails. 

“It would have been nicer to know what I was going to be asked and the platform in which I could speak,” Gastineau said. “[This amendment is] encouraging not only competition but encouraging more participants to actually participate or try to go out for these important positions.”

Elm Archive Photo
Photo Caption: On Oct. 26, the Student Government Association passed an amendment concerning the speaker of the Senate.

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