The Student Government Association Judicial Council rejected an appeal on the legitimacy of the proposed SGA constitution Feb. 26, paving the way for the ratification process to continue this week.
Andy Hixson, vice president of public relations, filed an appeal with the Judicial Council Feb. 23 on the grounds that procedures at the Feb. 18 special SGA meeting violated the terms of its current constitution. He alleged that the proposed constitution was unlawfully passed because SGA President Chris Pace violated the current constitution by allowing a proxy vote and submitting his own vote in the count.
The judicial council said Feb. 26 that, “Hixson’s arguments simply do not carry authority,” according to its ruling, written by Chief Justice Dave Caddell.
“The reason that I filed that appeal is because it was done incorrectly,” Hixson said. “Our bylaws say that Robert’s Rules of Order guides our actions and our rules. Robert’s Rules of Order does not recognize proxy votes, and Chris Pace allowed a proxy vote. That was my main basis for appeal. It never legitimately passed the senate.”
The ruling declined to address the issue of proxy votes and simply said that voting by proxy was not addressed in the SGA constitution or bylaws. It also held that, based on past precedent, the SGA president is permitted to vote to make or break a two-thirds vote of the body, and that quorum (a majority of the body) was met at the meeting, and the vote was therefore valid.
Hixson said the ruling “never answered any of the questions in my appeal.”
“I respect the J-council’s decision,” he said, “but I don’t agree with it. And there will be another appeal. It will be resubmitted.”
Hixson accused SGA President Chris Pace of unconstitutional conduct at the meeting. He said the bill, which received 21 votes, actually needed 23 votes (2/3 of the legislative body) in order to pass.
Hixson said when he brought this to Pace’s attention at the meeting, Pace submitted a proxy vote and then counted his own vote in order to reach the necessary 23 votes.
“I think the judicial council, in its authority as interpreter (of the constitution), made the right decision,” Pace said. “I think this is a good thing. These people really did their work on this.”
The constitution has been a topic of political debate within SGA since its proposal at the SGA retreat Jan. 16-18. Critics have said the proposal was hastily drafted and revised and senators did not have adequate time to review it before voting on it.
“I feel that the whole time it’s been underhanded and shady, so I’m not going to support anything unless I’ve had the time to sit down with it for at least a week and crunch it out,” Hixson said. “It’s a very big thing. It’s not something that should be handled that quickly, especially not when you’re involving other organizations.”
“I don’t think (the ruling) undermines anything,” Pace said. “I think it’s sour grapes, but that’s gonna happen when people wanna get political.”
The judicial council met for the first time to rule on the appeal, and Pace said he was pleased with the council’s initiative and fairness in its evaluation.
Caddell said he feels it is important for the council to remain independent from the senate and executive board in order to preserve objectivity.
“I think that it’s critical that you have a body that you can go to so it’s not just the one body. So if they make a decision somebody thinks is wrong, they have somewhere to go,” he said. “And I think that it’s good that a university allows self-governance, to say ‘We trust your all’s decisions.'”
He said appeals should be filed through the SGA office, with Caddell himself, or through the Dean of Students’ office.
*The editorial board of The Northerner submitted an appeal of the proposed SGA constitution to the Dean of Students’ office March 1. The board determined that Section 5, Article 1 of the proposal violates Kentucky open meetings law by permitting SGA to hold meetings closed to the public. A review of the appeal by the SGA judicial council was still pending at press time. For more information, visit Viewpoints.