Hixson’s eligibility contested

DJ Carter

Members of the Student Government Association have called the eligibility of presidential candidate Andy Hixson into question during the final days leading up to today and tomorrow’s election.

Hixson, former Vice President for Public Relations, was determined ineligible to run for president by the SGA Judicial Council at an April 12 hearing. Hixson appealed the decision to Dean of Students Kent Kelso on April 13, and Kelso ruled to overturn the council’s decision.

“The other side is afraid Hixson-Iker is going to win,” Hixson said.

Hixson believes his opposition found a “technicality” to get him out of the race, and claims that they thought the impeachment would get him out. He said that when it failed to do so, they looked for something else.

The Judicial Council decided 4-0 that Hixson was ineligible to run for president based on election guidelines. The guidelines set forth in the SGA constitution state that, “Each candidate for President and Executive Vice President must have served one semester on Student Senate or Judicial Council by the beginning of the fall semester following their election.” (Article VI, Sect. 1, B.9)

According to Vice President for Administrative Affairs Joe Myers, who filed the appeal of Hixson’s eligibility, Hixson does not meet these requirements because he has only served on the executive board, and was removed from that position on April 12.

The constitution clearly establishes a separation of powers between the three branches of SGA, which reinforces the prosecution’s argument that there is a distinction between being a Senator and serving on the executive board. The constitution states that, “Any student of Northern Kentucky University shall be governed by three branches: Executive (the Executive Board), Legislative (the Student Senate), and Judicial (the Judicial Council). These branches shall be separate, but interrelated.” (Article III, Sect. 1)

SGA President Chris Pace led the prosecution against Hixson at the appeal hearing.

“I wrote it. I know what I meant when I wrote it,” Pace said. “There’s a good reason executive board members weren’t included (in the eligibility requirements).”

Pace said that he thinks presidential candidates need to have experience on the Senate before they can lead it.

Hixson said that he has all the responsibilities of a senator and more. He said that he votes and can propose legislation, just like an elected senator.

Hixson, who said it would be a “tragedy” to have his slate removed from the ballot, appealed the Judicial Council’s ruling to Kelso.

“Let’s let the students decide who they want as their leader, not the current SGA president,” Hixson said.

Kelso said he decided to allow Hixson to run because the eligibility requirements state a candidate must have served “on” the Senate, not “in” the Senate.

Kelso said that executive board members’ duties include responsibilities typically associated with Senate experience.

“This constitution has significant numbers of contradictory statements and clauses within it,” Kelso said. “Therefore, when there is contradiction, it needs to be interpreted.”

Election Committee chair Michael Vaughan said that he will not acknowledge Kelso’s decision, and he said that any votes for the Hixson-Iker slate will be invalid.

“[The election committee] can make any claims they want,” Kelso said. “I don’t have any response to that.”

“When it comes to the SGA election, the buck stops with the SGA election committee,” Vaughan said.

Vaughan said that the constitution is “very explicit” in saying that the final decision on election matters is with Judicial Council.

The constitution states, “The judicial council is the final interpreter of all disputes involving Election Rules and Guidelines.” (Article IV, Sec. 3, D)

However, Kelso believes this is “overridden” by another section of the constitution that states, “If either party to the appeal is aggrieved by the decision of the judicial council, that party may further appeal to the Dean of Students within 10 official school days of the judicial council’s decision for determination of the matter.” (Article III, Sect. 1, C.2.e)

“Article [IV] is not going to remove a right from article [III],” said Kelso, who also serves as advisor to SGA.

“If this is a student government election, why is the administration taking such an active role in determining who and who cannot be on the ballot?” asked Executive Vice President Eric Fegan, Hixson’s opponent in the presidential race.

“[Kelso] can undermine student government, the elected leaders of students, with a snap of his finger, and I think that’s exactly what’s happening right now,” Fegan said. “We’re fighting like hell to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Fegan has hired Beth Louis, attorney at law, to represent his legal rights in this situation. Fegan said they could attempt to nullify the election if they feel it was handled inappropriately.

“If it takes me getting an attorney in here saying that the students need some power, that’s what’s gonna happen,” Fegan said.

Fegan said he plans to sponsor a resolution proposing that SGA no longer needs an advisor, and plans to bring the resolution before the Senate at the April 19 meeting.

“I think the dean loves control,” Fegan said. “This time the dean has overstepped his bounds, when he blatantly told us the constitution doesn’t matter.”

“In this period of time, with this particular election, emotions are very high,” Kelso said. “The utmost concern in most people’s mind is to win, and to win at all costs.

“What I in this office attempt to do, is to make sure that processes are followed and that fundamental fairness is assured for everyone, and that attempts to take advantage of alleged loopholes… are handled fairly, reasonably and prudently.”