Appointment rejected by senate

The Student Government Association’s executive board will continue to be one member short because the senate did not approve an appointment for the vacant position of vice president of student involvement at its Feb. 21 meeting.

SGA President Andy Hixson recommended Sen. Jesiah Brock for appointment, but in an 11-0 vote, with 17 senators present, the recommendation did not meet the required two-thirds approval of the student senate as required by the constitution.

“(Senators) have a duty to represent the students,” Hixson said, “and when (six) just refuse to vote, they’re not representing the students.”

The position became open when former Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs Amanda Bailey resigned, which was officially announced at SGA’s Jan. 24 meeting. The position’s title was changed to vice president of student involvement after the Board of Regents approved a new SGA constitution Jan. 26.

Hixson received five applications for the vacant position, and after deliberating with his executive board, he decided Brock was the most qualified candidate that could devote a sufficient amount of time on the board.

“(The executive board members) went based on qualifications only,” Vice President of Administration Sheena Dunn told the student senate after its vote. “The only person that I see fit, and that I would want to work with on my exec team, … is Jesiah Brock.

“For some reason or another, people don’t want to vote for him. … Obviously what we do is not good enough when we try.”

Michael Tobergta was one of the six senators who did not vote on the recommended appointment and said he was not presented with enough information. He said he feels the process was “rushed.”

“We needed to have questions answered,” Tobergta said. “They weren’t. I was not prepared to vote.”

Although Sen. Keidra King agreed that there could have been more discussion on the recommendation, she said citing this fact as a reason not to vote is a “cop-out.”

King said she thinks “it is a racial issue,” saying Brock was well-qualified and there was no reason not to vote for his appointment.

“I hope to God that (race) had nothing to do with it,” Hixson said, “(but) at face value, it appears (it did.)”

Tobergta disagrees: “I’m not looking at this as a black-and-white issue. I’m looking at whether this is just going to help all students or just going to help only a few students.

“I think that (Brock) could do a great job as far as working with student organizations and everything, but there’s something inside of me that’s saying that some special interests are going to be given priority.”

Hixson listed the creation of Project Diversity, an initiative for multicultural advancement, as a top priority for the semester at SGA’s spring retreat Jan. 7-8.

Tobergta said SGA could help with diversity issues on campus, “but that it should not be our main issue.”

“I want to help out as many students as I can,” Tobergta said. “I don’t want to look at just one group though, and that’s what I feel’s being done.”

Hixson said that’s not the case: “I’m not trying to advance any agendas of any special interest groups.”

He said that before he came into office, there was no diversity on the senate, and he identified that as a problem.

“I have made it no secret that I am trying to promote diversity on SGA,” Hixson said. “I have preached it from day one, and I’m going to continue that. And other senators that are getting scared because it’s not an old white boys’ club anymore can call it whatever they want.”

Paul Myers was another senator who did not vote on Brock’s appointment and said the student senate was not given reasons why the executive board felt Brock was the most qualified and why he was chosen over the other candidates. Myers said he couldn’t make a decision either way based on the information he was given.

“I seriously doubted that anyone voted against him because of his race,” he said. “I think some people are too quick to pull the race card. People on SGA are politicians, and they’ll use whatever they can to get their support from their constituents.”

Brock said he while was disappointed with the student senate’s vote, he was not surprised.

“I’m not going to stand up and say that it’s racism,” Brock said. “But just being a black male in America, I’m used to seeing things like this and going through things like this.”

Tobergta said he believes some senators are trying to exploit an issue that simply doesn’t exist.

“I look at everybody in the same way,” Tobergta said. “Black, white, yellow, green, purple – I don’t care what you are. I don’t care what your background is. I’m going to look at you as a human being and then I’m going to make a decision.

“I’m starting to get sick of this issue of diversity and everything getting thrown out with so much fervor and dedication that it makes Student Government look like it’s working for special interests.”

However, Brock said his intentions are for all students, not just special interest groups.

“I’m not here just for black students,” Brock said. “I’m not here for minorities. I’m here for students in general.

“It’s my opinion, and many other people’s opinions, that minorities are not being represented as equally as other students on this campus. So if I’m going to serve the students, and I feel there is something lacking in one portion of the student population, I’m going to work for that student population – especially if I’m part of the same race.”

As far as the vacant position is concerned, Hixson said he is unsure what will happen next.

“I have half a mind to recommend Jesiah every Monday until we get two-thirds,” Hixson said.