Guy/Samenus win heated election, found “in violation” of 2 of 5 election discrepancies

Alec Guy and Connor Samenus ere announced as the winners of the heated 2016 SGA presidential election, over presidential candidate Brad Stanton and running mate Haden McDonald, Friday March 4. The results came after a controversial election committee hearing that deliberated five discrepancies alleged by the Stanton/McDonald campaign. The vote, Guy/Samenus, 263, Stanton/McDonald, 216, came after the Election Committee found the Guy/Samenus campaign were in violation of two of the five alleged violations. The election committee overhearing the discrepancies was comprised of four Western students, who each confirmed that they had no conflict of interest in the campaign, Jessica Frogge, the administrative coordinator for SGA and Shana Meyer, vice president for student affairs. After hearing testimony from Stanton and Guy, the committee privately discussed the allegations, and if sanctions might be necessary. According to the SGA Bylaws, the campaigns violating SGA election policies can lose up to 10% of their votes for each filed discrepancy. The committee, however, took a more educational approach to the election, and sentenced Guy and Samenus to write a “letter of apology” to the Stanton/McDonald campaign, and a two-page paper on “how to improve the clarity of the campaign rules for future candidates.” No votes were taken from their campaign. The allegations and decision made by the committee are both available on the SGA website.

Anti-censorship bill passes through House committee

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A proposal to strengthen the press rights of student journalist has passed the first step in the legislative process: passing through committee. H.B. 2058 passed through Committee on Emerging Issues unanimously Wednesday with a 9-0 vote. The legislation, so called the "Walter Cronkite New Voices Act," was proposed by Missouri Western alum Rep. Elijah Haahr Jan. 6, the first day of Missouri's legislative session. The senior representative explains that his inspiration for the bill comes in part from a 2015 video taken during a protest at Missouri University-- Columbia, where a faculty member physically prevented a journalist from documenting student protests. "In the context of what happened in Missouri, the protests and the Tim Tai situation was something I was somewhat interested in," Haarh said. "It seemed timely... something that would more quickly gather interest and kind of get a movement behind it." That movement gained media attention Feb. 1, when ten witnesses testified during the bill's first committee hearing in support of the act. Chief among them was Cathy Kuhlmeier, one of the plaintiff’s of the 1988 Supreme Court case Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier. If passed, the New Voices bill would overturn the 1988 decision that previously set the national bright line for student journalist rights. Kuhlmeier believes that giving high school students enhanced first amendment protections is the first step in advancing journalism on the national scale. "You have to have a foundation to start and learn things; if you don't have that to start with, how are you going to all of a sudden pick it up in college?" Kuhlmeier said. "It's gonna make the difference in the world if we can continue to express our opinions and talk about what we believe in." If Missouri were to overturn Hazelwood by legislation, student press rights campaigns across the nation could use Missouri as an example for their state legislators. The New Voices campaign, led by the Student Press Law Center, is one of the largest national programs against student journalist censorship. Frank LoMonte, director of the SPLC, explains that the bill is likely to continue moving through the congressional process. “I think that realistically the only political concern is the school administrators and their lobbyist. That’s been the one source of friction in states that have attempted this in the past,” LoMonte said. “But, I’m kind of encouraged that that is softening as well.” The bill must pass through the Committee on General Rules before it can be voted on by the entirety of the House. If the House approves the legislation, then it will move on to a Senate committee and potentially to the Senate floor. If approved by the Senate and signed by Gov. Jay Nixon, the bill will become law for the state of Missouri.

Housing numbers

This semester Western has seen a slight drop in residential life. Approximately 150 to 200 students will leave on-campus housing from the fall semester to the spring.  According to Director of Residential Life Nathan Roberts, shifts in housing numbers are to be expected from fall to spring semester. “There is... always a drop from fall to spring, but that is not unique to Missouri Western. That drop is usually about ten percent,” Roberts said. In the fall of 2015, the university changed the credit hour requirement for students to live on campus from nine credit hours to twelve. Roberts said enrollment depends on graduation rates, what the university is doing to market, and other factors, including whether students get in-state tuition. This decision caused a decrease in the number of students who reside in the dorm. According to Kristen Neeley, New Student Experience Director, the decrease in housing numbers has had a positive impact on campus crime reports.   “It was a planned decrease; we wanted to have students that were more serious about their education. Typically, students who were taking nine or eleven credit hours that were allowed to live on campus had more time on their hands. I can tell you that last year’s incident reports and this year’s incident reports are significantly down. Our retention rate from the spring of students coming back to live in the dorms is significantly higher,” said Neeley.  The College Completion team, composed of representatives from student affairs, academic affairs and faculty, were the ones to make the decision.  “When you make a late decision to attend college, there are more hurdles to overcome, such as book buying, [and] financial aid concerns. I stand by that decision as far as being on that committee. It’s helped students more. When students aren’t happy on campus, they will tell five people; when you are happy, you’ll tell one,” said Neeley. “The students that used to leave in the middle of the year are now not even coming; this is helping morale.” Neeley has seen a complete turnaround after this decision. She thinks people seem to be happy, so she hopes that there will be an increase next fall in enrollment in the dorms.  In addition to decreasing the number of incident reports, Residential Hall Director Jamie Exline is hopeful that the staff can help boost student morale through social programs and events. “We’re trying to make sure the students are happy here; we are reaching out to their needs and making sure they are socialized. We encourage students to get out and meet people," said Exline. Currently, the dorms are not at capacity. Griffon, for example, is at 72 percent capacity; Leverton at 73 percent ;Vaselakos at 74 percent; Scanlon at 68 percent; Juda at 86 percent;Logan at 80 percent; and Beshears at 85 percent capacity.  The cost to live in each dorm is based primarily on the amenities and square footage, with Griffon being the most expensive option. Scanlon Hall recently expanded its residency to accommodate upperclassmen. In previous years, Scanlon was exclusively available to first year students. Scanlon is the most economical option for students.    “There has been a slow progression of upperclassmen moving over to Scanlon,” said Roberts.“Students who are looking for a cheaper place to live will see that as an option. They just have to overcome the stigma that it is a freshman building.” No immediate changes are expected for residential life, but student feedback will be a determining factor for any future decisions in the residential halls.   

Housing Bills

As the Missouri Legislature is resuming their sessions, two proposed House Bills have the potential to change on-campus life next year for Missouri Western students. House Bills 2098 and 2099 were introduced last week for debate in the Missouri General Assembly. House Bill 2098 proposes that all state universities no longer require freshmen to live on campus their first year. House Bill 2099 proposes that all on-campus residents no longer be required to sign up for a meal plan. If the bills pass, they will come into effect for the Fall 2016 semester. However, despite the change in policies, school officials do not foresee drastic changes happening at Western. Cale Fessler, Vice President for Financial Planning and Administration, said that it is difficult to speculate what kind of financial impact these bills could have as of right now. There could be a financial benefit for students wishing to save some money, but the school could possibly be in trouble from these bills financially. "The potential loss for revenue could be concerning depending on if these bills are passed," Fessler said. Western is currently paying for bonds, contracts, salaries, and general upkeep with residential revenue, so if numbers do drop more than they already have, adjustments will have to be made to the school's financial plan. Shana Meyer, Vice President for Student Affairs, acknowledges contract numbers may slightly drop at Western since some students are being required to live on campus that do not want to. Meyer argues that students benefit greatly from living on campus. “We believe we have a good product to offer that is more than a place to live, and students and parents recognize this. We offer safety, comfort and social values that one can’t find elsewhere,” said Meyer. Nathan Roberts, director of residential life, believes the convenience factor alone is worth living on campus. According to Roberts, there are little to no other places in St. Joseph that offer the same amenities or proximity to campus as the dorms do. According to Roberts, giving people the option may actually make on-campus living better as well. Students living on campus will be here because of choice, so there will be a personal investment and level of respect that is currently lacking for some students. As a result, the amount of disciplinary referrals and incidents will likely decrease, thus creating a more positive environment to grow and learn in. Meyer thinks that the only noticeable change would be to campus dining. Western’s contract with Aramark is determined by the number of students signed up for each type of meal plan. “If there is a drop in meal plans, then the results are basic economics; either the prices for options will increase or the amount of variety will decrease,” Meyer said. Nathan Roberts anticipates a scramble of sorts deriving from this. Roberts stated that students will probably drop their meal plans initially. Once they realize the convenience factor on-campus dining offers, they will gradually re-enroll in plans. However, if Aramark were to  downsize to accommodate the lower number of meal plans, then as students add the plans back, Roberts believes there could be a lack of resources available that Aramark will have to make up somehow. If fewer students are signed up for meal plans, both Meyer and Roberts acknowledged the alternatives students will be using. There might be possibility of remodeling the current kitchen facilities in the dorms. Certain rules and regulations, such as what appliances are allowed in the dorms, may be revisited as well. Some students were upset or opposed about the housing requirement being lifted because of loss of key experiences future students could miss out on. Vaselakos resident Austin Catron believes students choosing to live off campus their freshman year might miss out on important opportunities. “Living on campus my first year really opened the door to who I am today and I couldn't imagine what my life would be like if that hadn't happened. It would be a shame for an incoming freshman to miss out on a life changing experience like that,” Catron said. Former Scanlon resident, Kate Arthur, had a similar opinion. “I think (you) should be encouraged to stay on campus your first year. When I lived on campus I formed connections and memories with people that I'll never forget,” Arthur said. Ultimately, according to Meyer, students will get out of on-campus living and dining what they put into it. Some students may benefit from these possible changes, but that will require taking charge of their college experience and what’s right for them.

Cruz and Clinton Win Iowa Caucus

Missouri’s presidential primary may not be until March, but its neighbor to the north voted Monday night and the votes are in. In the 2016 Presidential Iowa Caucus, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz won his party’s caucus with 28% of the vote. Finishing in second and third place for the Republicans was Donald Trump with 24% of the vote and Sen. Marco Rubio with 23%. Meanwhile, Democratic voters supported Hillary Clinton by a very narrow margin in a close race over Sen. Bernie Sanders, ending with essentially a tie. Clinton received 49.9% over Sanders 49.6%, according to the Associated Press. In fact, it was so close, the Iowa Democratic Party released a press release the following day to confirm the results. “The results tonight are the closest in Iowa Democratic caucus history,” the Iowa Democratic Party Chair Andy McGuire said. “Hillary Clinton has been awarded 700.59 state delegate equivalents, Bernie Sanders has been awarded 696.82 state delegate equivalents, Martin O’Malley has been awarded 7.61 state delegate equivalents and uncommitted has been awarded .46 state delegate equivalents.” As mentioned, former Maryland Gov. O’Malley received 0.6% of the vote and suspended his presidential campaign Monday night. Assistant Professor of political science Dr. Jonathan Euchner is a native Iowan and participated in Monday’s caucus and explained the process. Essentially, the caucus is a neighborhood meeting for the two national parties, Euchner said. Once the meeting starts, the caucus-goers split into preference groups for presidential candidates where the goal to form a “viable” group. The total amount of people attending the caucus determine the percentage of supporters needed for a candidate to be considered viable. “[The caucus starts and] Everyone starts walking around and it’s kind of like a party,” Euchner said. “Eventually the room is divided up into however many candidates for president there are out there, who have supporters at the caucus site... Then, where it becomes really interesting is if you’re in a group that may be a couple people short, say you need 15 people and you only got 12, so then what happens is people start walking around to the groups with a lot of people and tell them ‘c’mon, join us’... People start kind of horse-trading.” The preference groups are eventually decided and then report back for a final tally. Delegates to the two parties’ national convention are then assigned to each candidate based on the percentage of supporters at each caucus site. While Iowa casts the first votes for presidential candidates this election cycle, Euchner said that this election has a long ways to get yet. “I think, heading into the Democratic race, it’s a long slog,” Euchner said. “I think Sanders could be in it for the long haul, and Clinton is not going anywhere... With the Republicans, boy, I think we need to see what New Hampshire does before we know for sure. New Hampshire may eliminate some establishment candidates, like [Jeb] Bush and Chris Christie.” With all the attention on Iowa now shifting to New Hampshire where the country’s first primary will be held, it appears like Missouri will largely be overlooked during this presidential election year. This, however, was not always the case, Euchner said. “The biggest reason Missouri is increasingly irrelevant is that it used to be a really competitive, ‘bellwether’ state,” Euchner said. “Missouri used to always pick the winner of presidential elections... But in recent years, Missouri has been becoming, for a presidential voting, a pretty safe Republican state, which means that Democrats generally ignore Missouri.” There is still a ways to go before the Missouri primary. The next primary is in New Hampshire on Feb. 9. Super Tuesday, when the most delegates are up for grabs across the nation, is on March 1. The Missouri presidential primaries, meanwhile, are on March 15.