By Dan Wohler, Executive Producer of Beacon Web News
Anger and frustration arose among students interested in the presidential debate when it was announced last Thursday afternoon that two of the three SGA presidential candidate tickets were not eligible to run because of a failure to meet minimum requirements for the positions. LaJuan Allen’s and Kaitlin Wright’s tickets were disqualified, leaving only Samantha Giffen’s ticket on the ballot, forcing the cancellation of BWN’s planned live-stream debate.
This prompted calls for an investigation by Academic Affairs into how strictly requirements have been followed in past SGA elections.
The Beacon learned that some candidates who appeared on last year’s ballot were technically not qualified to run according to Cathy Holbrook, vice president of Student Affairs. However, since none of those candidates won, the oversight was never made public.
The news of this year’s disqualifications was announced around 3 p.m. on April 6, a few hours before the planned live SGA Presidential Debate sponsored by The Beacon and Beacon Web News.
Allen’s and Wright’s campaigns were notified by SGA office manager Amanda Schuler that they did not meet at least one of the following four requirements:
- Running as one ticket on the ballot consisting of a President, Executive Vice President, and Coordinating Vice President.
- Nomination forms completed.
- Not be officers of any SGA recognized club or organization for the coming academic year.
- All the candidates must have a minimum of a 2.75 cumulative GPA.
Kaitlin Wright said that her ticket “knew the requirements and checked the by-laws.”
“Obviously I’m very disappointed as I put a lot of time and money—my own money—into the campaign,” she said.
Allen did not respond to multiple requests for statements for this story.
Jessica Lovellette, SGA Parliamentarian and Chair of the Elections Committee, announced the requirements for each SGA position at an SGA meeting where members of all tickets were present, thus being informed of their requirements ahead of time. The by-laws also clearly state the various qualifications.
According to SGA’s by-laws, these requirements are not checked until after nomination papers are due, which is seven days prior to the first election. Nomination papers were due on April 4, and, according to Lovellette, they began to check all nomination papers for every single SGA position in the late afternoon on April 4.
Also according to the by-laws, the Elections Committee must notify all candidates no later than four days prior to the primary elections if their nomination papers are invalid.
The SGA office manager is the first person to check if candidates meet the requirements for their respective positions. However, according to Holbrook, “no one’s GPA was checked last year.”
Holbrook stated that when the previous SGA office manager, Diane Collins, retired, she did not leave written rules and policies and much of what she did was from memory and experience.
Holbrook explained how the sizable turnover of new staff on the third floor of the campus center last year, which included herself and Amanda Schuler, led to the oversight on the part of Student Affairs.
Due to the “unintentional human error,” according to Holbrook, more than one candidate did not meet their requirements but were still placed on the ballot last year. The issue did not become public last year because, “the students who didn’t meet the requirements did not win,” Holbrook, said.
She explained how new staff members within Student Affairs were not familiar with the fact that requirements, such as GPA needed to be checked. This year they were more diligent about checking all requirements after the nomination deadline.
Last week’s disqualifications of both LaJuan Allen’s and Kaitlin Wright’s presidential tickets have highlighted possible, previous inconsistencies regarding how thoroughly SGA requirements have been checked in the past.
SGA President Tim Williams and Student Affairs have called for an investigation into how qualifications and requirements for SGA positions have been conducted over the past 10 years. The investigation will be managed by Academic Affairs and is planned to start as soon as possible.