After reviewing a recent student senate vote, Student Government Association President Andy Hixson determined his recommendation to appoint Sen. Jesiah Brock to a vacant executive board position was rightfully approved.
Hixson recommended Brock as the new vice president of student involvement at SGA’s Feb. 21 meeting, where he needed a two-thirds concurrence of the senate as required by the SGA constitution. In an 11-0 vote, with 17 senators present, Hixson originally declared that his recommendation was denied, saying it needed 12 votes to obtain the two-thirds approval. However, at the Feb. 28 meeting, Hixson reversed this decision and announced that Brock would fill the empty executive board position.
“Six members of this senate simply refused to vote,” Hixson said. “In doing so, they created what is called a blank. This is not to be confused with an abstention because no abstentions were called for.”
Hixson cited Robert’s Rules of Order, which states, “A two-thirds vote means two-thirds of the votes cast, ignoring blanks, which should never be counted. This must not be confused with a vote of two-thirds of the members present.” (Article VIII, Section 48)
Taking this into account, Hixson said Brock received 100 percent of the votes cast Feb. 21, and therefore met the required two-thirds approval of the senate.
Many senators and students questioned the motives of the six senators who did not vote on Brock’s appointment.
Desera Favors, president of Students Together Against Racism, was one of about 15 students outside of SGA present at the Feb. 28 meeting, and said she believes race was a factor in some of the senators’ decision-making processes.
“I don’t want to call anyone a racist,” Favors said, “but it was looking into race.”
Favors said she attended the meeting because she wanted an explanation on why the six senators did not vote for Brock. She said she was “very displeased” with their reasoning.
Brock said he tried not to get “caught up” in all the controversy that surrounded the vote on his appointment.
“It was neat to see that (students) came out,” Brock said, “not so much to support me, but just support students in general – just to let student body senators, and even myself, know that as SGA we work for the students. They don’t work for us.”
Sen. Michael Tobergta, one of the six senators who did not vote on Brock’s nomination, said he was happy that students came to the SGA meeting to express their concerns.
“Even though it took an issue like this to bring them to a student government meeting, I was glad to see students there,” Tobergta said.
Tobergta said he thinks Hixson’s ruling is correct and believes Brock will do a good job in his new position.
“I’m not questioning the individual who was appointed,” he said. “I’m questioning the methods and the process he was appointed under.”
Tobergta said the way in which Brock was appointed did not comply with the SGA constitution, which states that all applications for vacant executive board positions “shall be sent to all senators for review and (senators) shall have the opportunity to interview applicants on the date of their recommendation.” (Article IV, Section 1, A.8.e.i)
Hixson said this discrepancy is a “gray area” up for interpretation because when he started accepting applications for the vacant position on Jan. 24, SGA was operating under a previous version of the constitution that did not state this stipulation. The new constitution, which was approved by the Board of Regents Jan. 26, added this clause.
“A fair process was followed in putting (Brock) into this position,” Hixson said.
Tobergta said he believes there were other qualified applicants for the position that were never brought forth to the senate.
Donnie Angel, one of the five applicants, for vice president of student involvement, wrote a letter that Tobergta read to the student senate Feb. 28.
“I was denied an interview,” Angel said in his letter. “Why? Because I am a white male? Or is it because I am a non-traditional student? You see it works both ways, yet I am not … suggesting that race is or ever should be a factor.”
Hixson said Angel’s letter was unprofessional.
“(The executive board) felt that Jesiah had the most availability and had the best qualifications bar none,” Hixson said.
Jon Wright, Salmon P. Chase College of Law student and former Student Bar Association president, spoke out against Tobergta and other senators at the student senate meeting, reprimanding them for their “agendas of obstruction.”
Wright, who once served on SGA at Murray State University, said he is embarrassed of the actions of Northern Kentucky University’s student senate.
“I’ve never seen student politics at such a nasty level,” he said. “The adversarial nature in that room is unreal. These folks need to grow up.”
Tobergta said students must remember that SGA is a political entity.
“There are going to be times where it seems like there is a group of students in there who are just simply stonewalling an issue, who do not vote or vote in a negative way on everything,” Tobergta said. “The thing (students) need to realize is that the reason we vote the way we do is because of our principles. It’s not personal. … For someone to imply that there is a personal agenda is ludicrous.”
Tobergta said he has no plans to file an appeal on Brock’s appointment, but said he would back someone if they wished to make an appeal.