SGA debates appointment of senator following election discrepancies

Student body president Andi Dahmer talks about what to expect this semester in SGA. This semester there is a trip to Frankfort open to members of SGA to fight for public education where two members will have the opportunity to give a speech.

Nicole Ziege

The Student Government Association postponed the appointment of nominated senator Stephen Mayer after debate on discrepancies in the election process during its first meeting of the spring semester.

Former SGA Senator and WKU sophomore Stephen Mayer was nominated for appointment near the beginning of the meeting. SGA President Andi Dahmer said Mayer was a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon, had studied abroad at Harlaxton and was a member of the honors community at WKU.

“Stephen showed extraordinary leadership during his first full year here, so when he applied again, it was almost a no-brainer that he deserves the position once more,” Dahmer said in favor of Mayer’s appointment.

Public Relations Committee Chair Will Hurst voted against the appointment, moving the Senate into debate.

“I don’t believe we should be nominating anyone for an open senate position right now,” Hurst said.

Hurst said that “appointing another fraternity man” had been spoken out against by the SGA executive board members. He said the executive board members had said that Greek organizations were “over-represented” in SGA. Hurst said Mayer’s nomination was “hypocritical” of the executive board members.

“There were multiple applications of very qualified individuals who aren’t their friends who didn’t get a chance,” Hurst said.

Senator Anna McAvoy spoke in favor of the candidate, saying she “strongly recommended” that Mayer be voted in. She said Mayer was a “great representative of SGA as a whole.”

“Even though he is part of a Greek organization, I can speak as being part of a Greek organization, we’re not here to represent them,” McAvoy said. “We’re here to represent the students and our constituents here at WKU. I believe he deserves the position now.”

Hurst made a point of clarification regarding his previous argument against Mayer’s appointment.

“I think Greek people on this campus take great initiative and are good representatives of the student body, but I just wanted to point out that it’s very hypocritical for the executive cabinet to pick someone they have so adamantly spoken out against,” Hurst said.

Senator Alex Sergent spoke against Mayer’s appointment. He said he didn’t think Hurst was opposed to Mayer just because of Mayer’s involvement in Greek life. He said Hurst is also a member of the Greek community.

Sergent said Hurst’s primary concern, which Sergent said he also shared, was “some discrepancy” involved in voting for Mayer’s nomination by the executive board.

“I think a lot of us don’t feel confident in the results, and I think it’s fair for people to be less than confident in the results of such an odd election,” Sergent said.

He said that his voting against Mayer’s appointment “is nothing against the candidate,” and he referred to Mayer as an “excellent senator.”

“I’m just saying that we as a senate voted on a constitutional amendment that would have given us more power in the appointing process,” Sergent said. “An odd election came up, and now we’re still left in the dark with who was involved or who else we could have picked from.”

Senator Dillon McCormick argued in favor of Mayer’s appointment.

“I think it’s incredibly disingenuous that certain members of this body who disagreed with the election resulting from that particular amendment are making claims that there was some kind of voting irregularity when no evidence has been presented on the floor of this body that there was no voting irregularity,” McCormick said.

The Senate voted to move out of debate. With 11-21 and one abstention, the vote did not pass, and SGA continued debate.

Hurst argued that saying there was no irregularity was “ludicrous.”

“There is an irregularity because the members of the executive board cabinet did not do their constitutionally obligated duty to advertise that election,” Hurst said. “That is wrong, and we should not consider those results valid.”

Senator Lucas Knight said that a vote for Mayer’s candidacy was “not the place to debate the actions of the executive cabinet.”

“I feel, regardless of your opinion on that issue, he is a very viable candidate who has shown in the past that he can contribute to this organization positively,” Knight said. “Victimizing his candidacy for this organization is not the place to do so.”

The Senate voted to postpone Mayer’s appointment with a 25-7 vote.

Four student speakers spoke at the Senate meeting. The first was Stephen Mayer, and he introduced himself to the Senate, including his involvement with SGA as a freshman. He said student government was “something he is passionate about.”

“I am not angry with the way that this has happened because I agree that you should question appointments of senators, but I also feel that you should trust the president that you elected to the student body,” Mayer said. “My involvement should not be affected by what you think of the executive council.”

The second student speaker was Akron, Ohio, junior Francis Wilson. He said that although he was overseas during the past semester, he kept up with the news in Kentucky, WKU and SGA. He said he “wanted to speak frankly and with heart” to the Senate.

“This past semester, we’ve seen a lot of partisan politics in this room,” Wilson said. “We’ve seen a lot of undermining each other’s authorities, disrespecting each other’s roles in SGA, and we’ve seen a lot of divisive talk amongst each other. What does that do for the organization as a whole, and what does that say about the organization representing the student body?”

Wilson said the senators who “find a purpose” in their positions needed to “take advantage” of their positions.

“Let’s adopt habits of active listening and positivity,” Wilson said. “Let’s nurture a structure of teamwork so that work can be done effectively and positively.”

Wilson said he and the members of SGA “need to think about the students.”

“Students need to be better represented in all levels of this university because this next year, we’re gonna have a lot of cuts, to work, to employment, to dreams, and it’s gonna be really tough.”

The third student speaker was Sustainability Committee Chair Ian Hamilton. Hamilton read a letter written by former senate member Luke Edmonds regarding the shooting that took place at Marshall County High School. Hamilton said Edmonds was unable to attend the Senate meeting, but he wanted Hamilton to read his letter. The letter contained Edmonds’ thoughts and prayers to those affected by the shooting.

The fourth student speaker was WKU student Hunter Smith. Smith said he “wanted to add a neutral voice” to the debate around Mayer’s postponed appointment and the “irregularity” in the election. He said that the day before the Senate meeting, he had submitted an application to become a senator.

He said he agreed with investigating if “there is anything wrong” with the election, but he said he also “believes in the idea of meritocracy.”

Smith also said the “incessant” debate was “needless.”

“A lot of the times, debates keep happening and nothing really gets done,” Smith said.

After the Senate meeting, SGA President Andi Dahmer said she wanted to give a “message of collaboration and overcoming partisan differences.”

“The most important thing moving forward is to really focus on strategic planning and how it benefits our university, and I think if we’re able to collaborate together, then it will have the greatest benefit for all students,” Dahmer said.

News reporter Nicole Ziege can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected] Follow Nicole Ziege on Twitter at @nicoleziege.