Will FAU Ever Elect a Student Body President?

A week after FAU administrators wrote a letter to Student Government threatening to essentially shut them down, SG leaders held a contentious 4-hour meeting on the Jupiter campus last Friday to decide what to do about their student body president — or their lack of one.The unsigned letter from Student Affairs listed ten to-do and not to-do items that SG leaders needed to comply with if they didn’t want administrators to seize their $6.5 million in funding, which comes from student fees.What’s got them so upset is that SG still has no student body president even though their annual presidential election ended six weeks ago. Presidential hopeful Kirk Murray disputed the handling of the run-off election, which was held shortly after the general election ended without a clear winner. Until last week SG officials hadn’t done much to resolve the challenges and counterchallenges filed by Murray and Tony Teixeira, the other candidate vying for the spot. That’s why administrators finally had to get involved. “This is a last resort,” said Lisa Bardill, associate dean of Student Affairs. “It’s pretty serious. Our biggest concern is the students.”One of the not to-do items was mentioned not once, but twice in the letter. It stated “it was not necessary and not recommended that a chief justice be appointed at this time, and then later stated, “It is clearly not necessary to hire a chief justice to proceed.” And Bardill echoed that, “We don’t feel a chief justice is needed to proceed.”But that’s exactly what they did first- appoint a chief justice. Reshma Maharaj, senate speaker for the Broward campuses, believed it was a good decision because the Boca governor and acting president Kim Nyugen ran on Murray’s ticket. “It may appear there is favoritism,” she said. Most of SG’s top officials agreed. “I feel it is important to bring the judicial branch in here to make it fair,” Nyugen said. “That’s why I love America – checks and balance.”Senate Speaker for Jupiter Ian Depagnier feels it’s a good idea to “Bring in someone from the outside to oversee a fair and judicial meeting,” and added “I applaud Kim [Nyugen] in this.” Only days after Chief Justice Farid Hamidzadeh was appointed, he had to preside over arguably one of the most important meeting in recent memory, last Friday’s student court hearing to decide the fate of the presidential election. It didn’t take long though before the chief justice became the center of controversy when he started voting along with the rest of the UWC – a panel of SG’s top leaders – something the letter clearly forbade. “He may not vote because he is not ‘active membership’ of the UWC,” it stated.After Hamidzadeh cast his first vote Leslie Bates, dean of student affairs, stood up and said, “Based on the General Council [FAU’s lawyers] you have no right to vote in these proceedings.” While no one seriously objected at the time, at least two of the UWC members said days before that Hamidzadeh would not be voting. Maharaj said, “They don’t have a vote,” and Gian Amato, Broward campuses’ governor, also believed that, “They don’t have a vote on the council.”And Depagnier said after the hearing “I didn’t know he would be voting.”

However, Hamidzadeh argued that his voting privileges were approved at the beginning of the meeting and the court had the right to make up its own rules. He also said that former Chief Justices had set that precedent. So he continued to vote.Bates stood up twice more in objection before the UWC finally voted to bar and strike all of Hamidzadeh’s votes from the record. From that point on the Chief Justice refused to allow the SG advisers to give advice. It took motions overruling Hamidzadeh’s decision to allow them to speak. Depagnier defended Hamidzadeh by saying maybe he was trying to expedite the process, but personally would have handled it differently. “I would have taken their advice as much as possible.”The letter also stated that if a second run-off was decided upon “then another UWC meeting must be scheduled immediately in order to plan the run-off election as required.” As of press time no meeting had been scheduled.While Nyugen didn’t seta date for the next meeting, she did say, “I want to uphold the constitution. We have to get our heads together and plan accordingly.”Ed Fulton, Jupiter campus governor, is taking the administration’s threats seriously. “It’s a warning. They slapped our wrist,” he said. “It’s a scary reality.”Amato doesn’t feel the same way. “Honestly I don’t think they’re going to do it.”However, Student Affairs’ Bardill said, “If they don’t think it’s serious they’re wrong.”After the court hearing Murray was satisfied with the result but wasn’t looking forward to campaigning again. “I asked for justice and I got justice,” he said. “I am comfortable with the outcome.”While Teixeira, his opponent for the third time this year, said after the hearing “They think this is over. This is far from over.”As to what Bates thought of the court hearing, he said he was more comfortable with it after the Chief Justice was barred from voting, but added, “some questions have been answered and some have been raised.” But the biggest questions still remain: Who will be FAU’s next student body president and when will he take office? While SG officials still have no answer to these questions, they have decided to go forward with a second run-off election.And according to SG rules, this election has to take place within seven academic days, which would be around June 10 – but don’t count on it.Even though Student Affairs has already said that it must take place within that timeframe, Bates, did say the administration could possibly change that date if they feel it’s necessary. And that might be the case according to Elections Supervisor Bryce Jones. “I don’t see how it’s possible to do it in seven days,” he said. There are several things that must happen before the election can take place: – Contact the League of Women Voters, who act as poll workers for SG elections, and see if they have the availability.- Get money from the UWC to pay for the elections.- Create a new election timeline and get it approved by the UWC and student court.- Find five election commissioners, who must be approved by the UWC. But even if Jones can accomplish all these items and a two-day run-off can be cobbled together in seven days, it isn’t ideal. The seniors who graduated last semester will never have the chance to vote again and students who aren’t taking summer classes probably won’t even know that there is a second run-off election. Administrators and UWC members have taken this into account already, but aren’t doing anything about it. Bardill, simply called it a “shame.” While Paul Lowe, Treasure Coast governor, jokingly said, “Happy graduation,” and then apologized to those disenfranchised seniors. “I feel that only a fraction of the students will be able to vote,” he said. “In the end we’re doing more harm than good.”As for the students who won’t be attending FAU over the summer, Thomas Morris, Treasure Coast senate speaker said, “I guess mass emails can be sent out.”Lowe and Depagnier feel that no matter what happens with the next election it will be disputed.”Who ever loses the election is going to contest the election,” Lowe said. Depagnier agreed, “I expect the next election will be contested.” But he still voted to hold a new run-off because, “I can only follow the constitution.”While Jonathan Stearns, UWC representative for the Broward campuses, disagrees, “I was under the impression that the results will be final.”