More than one high-ranking official from the Student Government Association stepped down during the SGA assembly meeting Dec. 5, a meeting with a full agenda already.
Three senators were nominated and confirmed to serve on the Student Electoral Commission.
The senate then voted to approve the Student Ministries Committee legislation that was introduced last week, creating a committee of senators to work under Kiersten Beagan (so), SGA’s director of ministries.
Aaron Sharp (jr), vice chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, introduced the proposed constitutional amendment that would establish an impeachment procedure for SGA. The senate will be able to vote on the amendment as early as the first assembly meeting in January.
Dani Wolowec (sr), an SGA senator from the Lodges, said during her presentation at the Nov. 28 assembly meeting that Renee Weisenbeck (jr), vice president of academic affairs, had not been properly confirmed after she filled the vacancy created by Courtney Bidwell’s (jr) departure from the SGA cabinet earlier this semester. The SGA senate unanimously confirmed Weisenbeck Dec. 5.
Weisenbeck’s confirmation came just moments before Nathan DeMasie (jr) tendered his resignation from his post as vice president of financial affairs.
“It was brought up last week about the member being agnostic, and that was me, as you all know now,” said DeMasie to the SGA assembly. “After discussing with the cabinet about what’s the best action to take after that, I’ve decided to self-resign.”
“And there’s no hard feelings between me or Dani, so let’s clear that up,” added DeMasie. “We’re still friends. Don’t worry about that.”
Kristina Vander Meer (sr) said she is particularly disappointed with the situation surrounding DeMasie’s resignation. Vander Meer was on SGA last year and said she raised concerns with the new constitution about the clause that requires SGA members to exhibit “a personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” as Indiana Wesleyan University does not require its students to be Christians.
According to Vander Meer, Jonathan Freije (alumnus ‘11), SGA’s former executive vice president and chief of staff, told her last year that the constitutional requirement for a statement of personal faith wouldn’t be enforced.
After DeMasie’s brief presentation, Aaron Morrison (sr) read his written letter of resignation.
“Although my goal of greater student involvement in the university is laudable,” said Morrison, “the means whereby I sought to achieve this goal were flawed. I would’ve been better served to bring others, particularly the senate and my cabinet, along with me in the process.”
Luke Nelsen (sr), SGA’s senate chair, prompted those gathered to applaud for Morrison’s motivation and commitment to represent students. The assembly then gave Morrison a standing ovation.
Jenna Childress (jr), SGA’s former executive vice president, immediately assumed the presidency, leaving two open cabinet positions: executive vice president and vice president of financial affairs.
“There are no winners in this current situation,” said Childress, IWU’s new student body president, during the assembly meeting.
“We, all of us – Aaron, the cabinet, the assembly and the student body – are wounded from this situation,” Childress said.
“The cabinet and I are confident that, with work, with hard work, SGA can flourish this coming semester,” continued Childress. “We would like to do this by getting back to the basics of SGA. We believe that dynamic student life can happen from basic, effective representation and relationships. So let us collectively take this Christmas break as a time of healing and regrouping for what is ahead.”
Childress said she did not yet know who would fill the two vacancies in her cabinet.
At the conclusion of every assembly meeting, those present engage in an “open floor” discussion, during which any topic is fair game. John Heldreth (so), an SGA senator, asked the cabinet if members had been reconfirmed by the senate at the beginning of the school year, as the constitution requires. Elizabeth Potter (so), SGA’s secretary, confirmed that the cabinet had, in fact, not been reconfirmed properly.
Nelsen responded by suggesting that the senate vote on the matter immediately. Nelsen handed his gavel to Sharp, who officiated a formal vote, quickly legitimizing SGA’s six remaining cabinet members, in addition to Childress.
The reconfirmation issue was merely a technical oversight, according to Nelsen, who explained Dec. 6 that the cabinet had been confirmed at the end of the 2010-2011 school year and took an oath at the beginning of the 2011-2012 academic year.
Nelsen and Stephen Weeks (so), SGA’s vice president of public relations, also responded later that week to what they said were misinterpretations of recent SGA-related events.
“[Morrison’s] wording led some to believe that the administrators recommended he resign,” said Weeks. “But that is not the case.”
According to Nelsen, Morrison apologized to his cabinet members Wednesday, Nov. 30, for not including them in more of his decisions and offered to resign if his cabinet recommended he do so. Bill Millard and Michael Moffitt, SGA’s faculty advisers, made sure that Morrison knew the decision to step down or not was Morrison’s alone, according to Nelsen.
Weeks said, based on an informal “straw vote,” there were multiple cabinet members who said they would resign if Morrison did not, but Weeks declined to identify which members said this. Morrison was present for this entire process, according to Weeks, Nelsen and Childress.
Weeks said: “[Morrison] acted autocratically a lot, without the cabinet’s input or judgment. He would do things sort of spur-of-the moment that we didn’t always – the cabinet did not always support or even know about that he was doing, which is a big problem when you’re supposed to be acting as a team, but the team doesn’t know what the leader is doing.”
Nelsen agreed, saying Morrison valued the constitution as a good set of guidelines, but Nelsen said, “When trying to address how things should be done constitutionally, at least some members of the cabinet got the sense that Aaron, generally, did not view the constitution as an actual governing document.”
The concerns raised by cabinet members reflect Wolowec’s constitutional concerns, which she raised during the Nov. 28 SGA meeting.
“I made it clear to Aaron and to those that I spoke with from the beginning that I never wanted him to resign,” said Wolowec, “and I did not want him impeached. I simply wanted change, and I wanted people to abide by the constitution.”
Nelsen said governing documents like the constitution provide “tradition, precedent and consistency” to entities like SGA.
“Without SGA, there is no institutionalized, primary effective interface between the student body, the administration, the board of trustees and the faculty,” said Nelsen. “SGA, its purpose is to create that cross-entity discussion so that, instead of 5,000-plus people trying to talk about things that everyone cares about, we can have people streamlining those conversations, targeting the important ones and being able to work together on things that, hopefully then, can be resolved optimally.”
Both Weeks and Nelsen expressed confidence in President Childress’ leadership ability and look forward to continuing to represent the IWU student body. Childress’ first full assembly meeting as student body president will take place Jan. 16, 2012.