A Tale of Four Presidents

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. And for Student Government, 2006 was mostly the latter. After botched elections, alleged grand theft and a presidential resignation, SG spent the last few months of 2006 trying to reconstruct its image. Its leaders not only made headlines in the UP but garnered coverage from a number of local media outlets like The Palm Beach Post and Sun-Sentinel. While there were bright spots this year, SG will mostly be remembered for its low moments. Perhaps some of the biggest players have been SG’s four student body presidents. Each of them played a unique part in SG’s unfolding drama….

Act 1: Dan WilsonThe Damsel in Distress

Trouble begins with delayed elections and a tearful leaderSome remember him as a champion of Campus Recreation, others a voice of the students. A few SG officials might even remember him as the guy who cried. But everyone knows him best as the impeached president.

Although his impeachment came just five weeks before the end of his term, and he was never actually removed from office, the memory seems to have stuck.

Dan Wilson’s impeachment was the beginning of a year’s worth of controversy for SG. While some SG officials charge his term as the root of many current SG problems, administrators and students spoke highly of him.

Among a number of accusations hurled against Wilson during his impeachment process, two of the biggest were that he missed meetings and delayed SG’s upcoming elections by failing to appoint an elections supervisor for about six months.

Two campus senates impeached Wilson, but the process never moved beyond its first stages. In a rare appearance by the administration, Dean of Student Affairs Leslie Bates appeared before SG criticizing them for their actions. This was the first of many harsh warnings SG would get from the administration that year – two others were letters from FAU President Frank Brogan.

Wilson defended himself, saying his impeachment was unfounded and an attempt to blackmail him into firing two of his staff members.

“I was up half the night crying and shaking,” Wilson admitted to top SG leaders during a meeting following his impeachment. He later clarified that he was crying because his mother had been hospitalized. But at least three SG officials say Wilson came to them crying, asking why they would impeach him.

Act 2: Kim NguyenThe Ice Queen

The relationship between SG and administration chills after Nguyen takes over

Kim Nguyen was charged with one responsibility after assuming power in May – find a duly elected student body president.

She was appointed interim president after the first election for student body president yielded no winner and a second ended in a flurry of disputes. She was supposed to lead SG through uncharted territory and keep a potential constitutional crisis at bay.

Instead she defied administrators, snubbed FAU President Frank Brogan, and the election process came to a halt. Brogan responded by threatening to withhold SG’s funding unless a new president was elected.

However, Nguyen showed that threats did not scare her and responded harshly to administrators in a letter: “The Student Government Association and I are not amused with blatant threats of withholding our funds as well as the constant impeding on our rights…”

Brogan intervened and requested a private meeting between the two of them. But when she showed up with an entourage of SG leaders, Brogan declined to meet with her.

A week later, he responded to Nguyen’s actions and leadership in a memo of his own:

“Your denial of presidential authority while using that power and authority, your failure to conduct a re-run election in the time and manner required by the SG policies, and the current dysfunctional state of student government convinces me that the student body at FAU is now being deprived of an effective student government.”

Nguyen eventually got the election jump started again, but it was clear that relations between SG and the administrators were strained. In fact, one of her appointees, Sloane Schames, threatened to have Broward’s SG adviser Terry Mena removed from the room if he continued to whisper to his colleague during a meeting.

Entr’acte: Tony Teixeira The King That Never WasTeixeira wins the election, then loses the office

Tony Teixeira found out he was FAU’s new student body president on April 26. A day later he wasn’t, at least not officially.

Despite winning the election, Teixeira would ultimately lose the office after a flurry of disputes and be remembered only as the president who never was.

He went into the race as an underdog with little backing from SG leaders, but in a surprise twist, he beat the sitting vice president by 63 votes in a run-off election.

After his opponent Kirk Murray disputed it, Teixeira spent a month as FAU’s student body president-elect while SG’s new leaders decided his fate.

They eventually called for new elections, which Murray easily won after Teixeira’s support eroded. His own running mate was a no-show on election day.

Since then Teixeira has vanished from SG’s offices and has stated that he wouldn’t run again unless there was a major overhaul in SG. But rumors have surfaced that he may run again.

Act 3: Kirk Murray The Evil Sorcerer

Even Murray’s enchantments couldn’t keep him in office

Kirk Murray may be remembered for his uncanny ability to enchant his followers. But even the best cast spells can go awry. And Murray’s spell was no exception.

Even the undying devotion of his supporters could not keep him in office after months of mishaps, culminating in a disastrous gift card program and a police investigation.

After battling in three elections to win office of student body president, Murray breathed a sigh of relief. But it was short-lived.

The instability that started with Dan Wilson and continued through Kim Nguyen’s strained relations with administrators also plagued Murray’s reign.

Murray’s troubles, however, surfaced months before he took office. Rumors swirled that he may have committed fraud in his oversight of SG’s gift card program. And just days before a third election, word spread that a police investigation was underway. His followers, however, brushed those rumors aside and blamed them on an evil trick by Murray’s opponents.

Instead, it turned out, that the trick had been orchestrated by Murray. It would take three months, but Murray was finally forced to resign in disgrace. In a three-sentence resignation letter, he took responsibility for mishandling the gift card program.

Even so, many of his followers still believe in his good nature and innocence.

However, FAU President Frank Brogan showed he certainly didn’t when he sent a letter addressed to Murray calling SG’s behavior “selfish,” “immature,” and “potentially unethical.”

Act 4: Austin ShawThe Knight in Shining Armor

Turncoat or triumphant leader?

Austin Shaw was Kirk Murray’s Vice President and biggest supporter. A few months later he replaced Murray as president and called his behavior “horrible.”

But Shaw isn’t remembered as a turncoat. In fact, administrators and students alike saw him as a reprieve after months of SG scandals. A tumultuous election process, blatant defiance of administrators, a mismanaged gift card giveaway program and a police investigation had left SG’s image tarnished.

Shaw, a self-described “good boy,” made it his first priority to bring credibility back to SG. He started with a rewrite of SG’s archaic constitution.

“What bothers me most about Student Government is this image of arrogance, this image of money hoarding, mismanaged funds, secretive,” he said shortly after taking office.

Shaw echoed his words from the campaign with Murray months earlier when he accused SG of “embezzlement” and called for it to stop. “SG is spending money on trips for themselves, holding secret meetings” (see University Press April 13, 2006, issue).

This turned out to be a prophetic statement when Murray resigned, claiming responsibility for SG’s mismanaged gift card program. The news came much to the dismay of Murray’s many supporters, including Shaw who said he was “devastated.”

Since then Shaw has been careful to distance himself from his former boss, working with administrators and lauding major changes in SG.

The stormy seas of SG seem to have calmed since Shaw took charge. But he’s still holding his breath. “It takes just one memo to get everyone upset.”