Student Association rewind

Year included resignations, policy overhauls, invalidated election

By AMANDA LOW and SAM FERNANDO
On May 6, 2014

  • March 27, president-elect James Ingram celebrates as he and his Value Party sweep the 2014-15 SA election. Aline Kobayashi, The Spectrum
  • March 28, 2013, Nick Johns wins the SA election. Johns resigned on Sept. 18 after many SA members accused him of a litany of grievances. Spectrum File Photo
  • Oct. 9, Sam McMahon fist bumps upon hearing his presidential victory. Aline Kobayashi, The Spectrum

The Student Association had an eventful 2013-14. From multiple resignations to constitutional amendments, SA has implemented structural changes and gone through controversy that started almost immediately. In the fall, President James Ingram, Vice President Evan Chen and Treasurer Sade Cadle will run SA. Below is a round up of this year's biggest student government headlines.

President resigns less than one month into academic year

Sept. 18, Student Association President Nick Johns resigned. Vice President Lyle Selsky became interim president.

Johns was accused of a litany of offenses, including inappropriately accepting gifts, mishandling SA funds, hiring personal friends over more qualified candidates, being absent from important events, falsifying documents, mistreating staff and harassing Chief of Staff Jennifer Merckel. The Spectrum printed an article Sept. 9, "The president's end?" which publicized the accusations.

In the weeks prior to his resignation, SA higher-ups were circulating a petition to impeach Johns for his alleged wrongdoing. The petition had reached more than 2,000 signatures - 2,541 were needed for impeachment - by the time he stepped down.  

In a statement to The Spectrumannouncing his resignation, Johns called the allegations "ridiculous" and said, "Although I know I could have definitely beat all of these charges based on my strong evidence to refute these claims, I also know that a prolonged conflict would create fundamentally irreparable fractures in the structure of the SA."

The re-election for president was slated for three weeks later.

Sam McMahon wins re-election

Oct. 9, Sam McMahon was elected SA president.McMahon was the SA office manager and one of the people who came forward in opposition of Johns.

He received 1,087 votes, beating SUNY Delegate Mohammad Alwahaidy, his closest opponent in the six-person election, by 309.

McMahon said the re-election process was proof that SA's checks-and-balances system was intact. He said fixing problems that exist in the leadership of the organization shows the system is working.

In his platform, McMahon promised a new holiday shuttle service that would take students to and from the Buffalo/Niagara International Airport. Within his first week in office, the shuttle system was in place.

Vice president resigns just before spring semester

Jan. 22, SA Vice President Lyle Selsky resigned, citing family reasons for his leave. Selsky was the second person from the Spirit Party to leave office.

"Over the past several months a lot of hardship has befallen upon my family," he said in a written statement. "To continue being Vice President would do the student body a disservice when I know I will not be able to give 110%, which is what you the students expect of your government."

McMahon appointed Judy Mai, a senior health and human services major, to fill the vice president seat. Thirteen SA Senate members voted 'yes' to the appointment at the first Senate meeting of the spring semester, Feb. 2.

Mai has been active in SA for four years, holding positions as an SA office manager, senior office manager and club services director.

Senate passes six constitutional amendments in one meeting

Feb. 23, the Senate passed six and tabled one of seven amendments in less an hour during a meeting.

The approved amendments: removed the distinction of on- and off-campus senators; changed staff appointment procedures; extended the president's term until the end of the school year; altered election dates and vacancy election policies; officiated university policy in Student-Wide Judiciary (SWJ) rulings; and revised the process of money transfers.

The Senate decided to table the fourth amendment, which specified certain Senate powers.

Senator Ali Ahmed believed there was not enough discussion on the multiple amendments.Former SA President Travis Nemmer said time of discussion at the Senate meeting "doesn't factor too much" into the decisions as long as they were given the "appropriate attention."

Value Party sweeps SA election

March 27, the Value Party swept the elections for the 2014-15 school year. Presidential and vice presidential candidates James Ingram and Evan Chen, respectively, won the positions with 1,201 votes - 250 more than their opponents, Erin Lachaal and Myriam Diomande of the Impact Party.

Sade Cadle ran for treasurer with the Value Party and won the position with 1,021 votes. Impact's Juan Jiminez received 965 votes and independent candidate Ali Ahmed had 155 votes.

March 24, SA President McMahon and Vice President Mai sent an email to the SA listserv, which goes to the executive board of every SA club, detailing the plausibility of each party's platform. Some members participating in the election felt the email was inappropriate

The total number of undergraduate students who voted was 2,303 - about 11.8 percent of the student body.

A part of Ingram's platform with the Value Party was to modernize SA's basic operating procedures by having video tutorials for skills like how to book a room.

Treasurer candidate Ahmed claims mistreatment, invalid election

March 27, Ali Ahmed, a treasurer candidate in the SA election, lost by more than 700 votes in the election. He felt he was treated unfairly throughout the election process and thinks the election was invalid.

He was running independently and acknowledged he was likely to lose, but he felt members of SA hindered his ability to effectively campaign and be a viable candidate in the election.

Ahmed claimed an amendment passed by the Senate earlier that semester mandated the election was to start "no earlier than six weeks before the last day of classes and no later than three weeks before the last day of the spring semester," but the election didn't fall within this timeframe. Election and Credentials Chair Matt Siwiec spoke to SA's lawyer, Josh Korman, who said the amendment would affect next year's election because the election process had already started by the time the amendment was passed.

Ahmed claimed the email McMahon and Mai sent to SA clubs was inappropriate and didn't mention him as a candidate.

"I simply was not treated as an equal candidate," Ahmed said. "I understand that I don't have a party, I didn't run on a party's ticket or have anyone with me, but I think it is completely unreasonable to ignore a candidate."

Ahmed also claimed he wasn't treated like the other candidates on the floor of the election. Siwiec took responsibility for some of the mishaps on the floor.

Senate votes to lower executive stipends

April 13, the Senate passed the 2014-15 undergraduate SA budget, which included a cut to each of the executive board's stipends - down from $12,000 to $10,000. This cut put $6,000 back into the SA's roughly $3.6 million budget. Eight senators voted 'yes' and three abstained on the budget proposal.

Many SA members and UB students agreed with the decrease of the executive board's stipend.

Alana Barricks, an SA senator, originally ran for Senate because she believed the $36,000 stipend should be reduced. She feels $30,000 is still a lot, but she is happy SA is "headed in the right direction."

Senate, Assembly make changes to election process

April 23, the SA Assembly and Senate passed multiple changes to the election process that many student leaders believed have been necessary for a while.

The Assembly changed election rules, making the president and vice president candidates run on separate ballots. The Senate also had an emergency meeting the same night and passed an amendment giving the president the ability to appoint SUNY Delegates.

Siwiec, who is also the international coordinator and a senator, proposed these changes to the Senate and Assembly.

Previous election processes required the president and vice president to be voted in together and SUNY Delegates to run on a party's ticket.

James Ingram, president-elect, said the separation of the two executive members will ensure the positions are candidates "the majority of the students wanted to fill." Ingram abstained from the vote, however, because he believed the changes needed more discussion.

Council election voided, current student representative Ovadia accused of "overstepping boundaries"

April 25, the University Council Elections Committee voided the results of the UB Council student representative election from earlier that week.

Siwiec, the election committee chair, sent an email informing the candidates the committee wanted "to restore students' trust in the election process and demonstrate that the expectation of professionalism will be enforced."

The reason for the re-election was because of controversy surrounding current UB Council Student Representative Dan Ovadia's "clear support of one of the candidates," according to Siwiec, and a possible leak of the results.

The new election needed to be during the academic year to be considered valid. The online election will be held from midnight May 6 to 5 p.m. May 8. The results will be announced May 12.

The UB Council Representative position is outside of the Student Association. But before the council election was voided, Rory Miller, a former Student Association hiring committee member, claimed Ovadia went beyond the boundaries of his position.

"It would be the same as [current SA President] Sam McMahon supporting Value or Impact when they ran," Miller said. "They stayed out of it."

Siwiec looked into Miller's issues and said Ovadia had not broken any SA or New York State rules.

Ovadia changed his Facebook cover photo Minahil Khan's "Minahil Khan for UB Council" banner. Miller gave The Spectrumscreenshots of a private Facebook group that included Ovadia asking members to change their cover photo to Khan's banner.

 

email: news@ubspectrum.com


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