Petition Vote Opens Today; Results Could Impact Race for SGA President
The initiative vote comes after a successful petition by Asha Marie, a current junior who hopes to run for SGA president later this semester.
The voting form will open at noon today and remain open for 48 hours.
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Furman’s Student Government Association (SGA) is set to hold a student body vote early this week to determine whether to change a rule in its constitution that requires candidates for the office of SGA president to have served for at least one year on the SGA council. The voting form will open at noon today and remain open for 48 hours, closing at noon on Wednesday, SGA elections chair Isabelle Drooker confirmed.
The initiative vote comes after a successful petition by Asha Marie, a current junior who hopes to run for SGA president later this semester. Marie, well known for her social justice advocacy both on and off campus, decided to run over the summer but did not learn about the requirement until the last week in January, she said. In its current form, the requirement renders her ineligible for the position. Her petition, which garnered the signatures of over 10% of the student body, has sparked debate over SGA’s governing documents for the first time in years.
According to current SGA president Griffin Mills, the rule in question is not a bylaw. SGA’s constitution and bylaws are two separate documents, both of which are accessible on the organization’s SyncDIN page. While the bylaws cover more granular operations and can be amended by a two-thirds vote of the SGA council (which is composed of a president, vice president, treasurer and secretary elected by the student body, as well as the president, vice president, treasurer and secretary of each class), the constitution can only be amended by student body votes. Such votes can come about in one of two ways.
The constitution provides that “the student body will vote on any legislation brought before it at the request of at least one-third (1/3) of the total membership of the SGA.” For this to occur, a member of the SGA council must first make a motion for referendum. Alternatively, “any legislation will be put to a student vote providing a petition signed by ten percent (10%) of the student body is received by the SGA President.” Regardless of which path the legislation comes from, it can only be passed by a simple majority vote of the student body, “provided at least twenty percent (20%) of the student body votes.” In recent years, executive elections (for president, vice president, treasurer and secretary) have seen an average turnout of around 35%, Mills said.
Marie said that after she found out about the rule, she considered trying to revise it through the first process (referendum) before deciding the second (initiative) would be faster and more conducive to her eventual aim of being elected SGA president.
In addition to the requirement of at least one year of SGA council service, candidates for SGA president must be rising juniors or seniors. If Marie’s petition is voted down (or if less than 20% of the student body votes), only a handful of students would be eligible to run for SGA president. In order to make it onto the ballot, any potential candidate would need to gather 25 student signatures as part of an official petition to the Office of Student Life, according to the SGA bylaws.
If Marie’s petition is approved by the student body, the pool of potential candidates would greatly increase. She argues that, by limiting eligibility to a small group of students, the current rule “prevents qualified student leaders on Furman’s campus from running” for SGA president.
Mills said that the rule was likely intended to keep people from running for president as a gag and turning SGA into a popularity contest. With that in mind, he said that SGA may consider a change that would make the leadership requirement for the office of SGA president broader and more inclusive. Marie said she would prefer to drop the leadership requirement entirely, relying instead on the election process itself to eliminate bad candidates.
Regardless of the outcome of this week’s vote, students can expect two SGA elections this semester. Executive elections, which are typically held the week before spring break, will occur sometime in March, and class elections will be held towards the end of the semester, Mills said.