Following last fall’s coverage of the Student Government Association constitution controversy, the SGA officers and upper-level administration members involved with the issue are beginning to answer the questions that continue to linger.
The controversy has left many still scratching their heads, including those who were involved with the new constitution.
“It’s been a very confusing situation,” said Duane Bruce, associate dean of student development and SGA advisor.
The newest constitution, authored by the SGA executive board and co-authored by current SGA President Harold Callaway and Vice President Jennifer Kohler last fall, has received full administrative approval from Bruce and Joseph Bragin, the provost and vice president of academic and student affairs.
“Everything’s squared away in our end and it will be going to the student body [on April 7 and 8],” Callaway said. “Most all the time it always originates through the chain of command prior to going to the student body just so we can meet all of our due diligence on our end to make sure that it’s a good document.”
The controversy arose out of several attempts by both the current and past SGA administrations to modify the 2005 constitution, the most recent of which is a 2008 constitution authored last semester by the SGA executive board and co-authored by Callaway and Kohler. Callaway explains that SGA wanted a constitution that was clearer and easier to look through than the one from 2005.
“We made the document a little more clearer…easier to identify key elements of our organization,” Callaway said. “That’s pretty much what we’ve gone through.”
Bragin states that his main concern is for the constitution to be an effective document that SGA can use for the better of the university.
“If it’s vaguely worded or it leaves out sections that define how you’re going to govern yourself, it’s just creating more problems,” Bragin said.
The most confusing change, and the one that remains at the center of the controversy, is the election issues. According to the 2005 constitution, elections would happen in March and an inauguration would occur two weeks afterwards. During their term as SGA President and Vice President, Natalie Bailey and Luke Herrington changed the elections to November, allowing them to serve a third semester with free and reduced tuition. This created a series of new problems.
“What it had done is I spent the last half of [Bailey and Herrington’s] budget,” Callaway said. “You shouldn’t have an organization where I’m spending someone else’s budget. It goes against fiscal policy of the university. We weren’t running on an academic calendar anymore, we were running on a traditional calendar from December to December but the university runs July to July…it overlaps an entire semester of the fiscal budget of the university.”
Although the constitution was ratified by students, the Bailey/Herrington constitution was voided when Missouri Western administration claimed they had never approved it, forcing SGA to revert back to the 2005 constitution. Learning from their predecessors’ mistakes, Callaway insisted on going through all the proper channels this time around. Unfortunately, his administration came up with the opposite problem.
In September of last year, SGA introduced Resolution F08-01. The document, authored by the SGA executive board and co-authored by Callaway and Kohler, suspended the 2005 constitution, stating that it “is not up-to-date and inhibits efficient operation…” Furthermore, the Resolution enacts the 2008 constitution, which moves the inauguration date from two weeks after the election to five months; this change in the constitution allows Callaway and Kohler to serve a third semester similar to Bailey and Herringtion.
Under Resolution F08-01, the Student Senate approved the new constitution on Sept. 15 by a majority vote. Specifically, the Resolution stated that the constitution would go up for a student vote on Nov. 18 and 19. However, the administrative approval wasn’t complete until Nov. 24, meaning that SGA was acting under a constitution without official approval until that date, and they still haven’t received student approval.
Without that student approval, SGA must operate under the 2005 constitution, rendering the 2008 version void. As a result, the November elections of President-elect Joshua Todd and Vice President-elect Ernest Chamblee could be voided and the inauguration date could be reversed from five months after the election to two weeks. Furthermore, the failure to get the 2008 constitution to a student vote means that Callaway and Kohler are currently serving a third semester that students did not elect them to.
Callaway, insisting that SGA has gone through the proper channels, claims the five month period between the elections and the inauguration is for a period of transition to help Todd and Chamblee settle into their new roles within the organization.
“You really don’t know what you don’t know until you are in this organization,” Callaway said. “For there not to be a transition process doesn’t make sense for our organization…It’s never been done. It’s something that should have always been there.”
Callaway admits to being disappointed that the constitution vote didn’t happen on time, but claims his administration was not keeping the student body or the university out of the loop.
“We haven’t hidden anything from anybody,” Callaway said.
While it may never be known what really happened behind the scenes, the SGA constitution controversies will remain one of the most fascinating and unfortunate turn of events in the organization’s history.