The new student Constitution and the new student government political structure both became active May 1.
Commissioner Justin Welch has been in the Oversight and Appeals Commission since before the government was disbanded. He said he saw the loopholes in the old Constitution being abused.
“In 2009-2010 school year,” he said, “ … eight versions passed of the Senate bylaws – all politically motivated, all to make it easier or harder for one party or another to do something. Bylaws aren’t supposed to be like that; bylaws are supposed to last for longer periods of time.”
He continued to explain that, now, bylaws have to pass through all officials – to ensure that everyone has a say in all legislation. He added that bylaws aren’t active until the following school year and cannot be changed until the next school year.
The new government wouldn’t be enacted until the May 1, and after the conclusion of this year’s General Elections
The results were:
· Ryan Sorenson, political science major, won the 2014 Presidential Election. He beat Lavelle Young, finance and accounting major, by a margin of one percent.
· Evan Braun, music theatre performance major, won Vice President of Student Affairs and Ari Stone, biochemistry major won Vice President for Academic Affairs.
The University Student Court Justices completed their final step toward the transition to the new Student Association governmental structure when they unanimously passed their new bylaws at a March 9 meeting. The Board of Trustees passed the new Constitution 15-2 and 80 percent of the Senate approved it. The Senate needed a two-thirds majority to do so.
The Chair of the UWM SA Independent Election Commission (IEC) Carla Greve and UWM Chancellor Michael Lovell signed the Constitution Jan. 30.
These changes had to happen, according to a report from UWM Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Michael Laliberte. He led an investigation of the old SA with help from Student Affairs administrators at UW-Whitewater upon orders from UWM Chancellor Lovell.
The SA has a history of controversy, but last year’s elections were the breaking point and ended with Lovell invalidating more than 20 elected officials’ positions.
Last May, the UWM administration received complaints, including election malpractice and discrimination. The volume and severity of complaints caught the attention of Lovell, and the investigation was underway.
According to an email from Laliberte to Lovell, the investigation’s notable findings were that the SA failed to follow its own election bylaws, there was a lack of independent processes and there were ballot irregularities.
The email to Lovell stated:
“The Student Association failed to follow its own Election Bylaws, including:
· The lack of availability of Party Registration Forms;
· The lack of a public and open debate;
· The enforcement of a bylaw, which had previously been stricken by the Student Association Senate.”
The report read that Article 1, Section 2.B of the IEC bylaws states that Party Registration Forms must be made available by the last date of the fall semester’s final exams and are due by noon on the second Monday of February. That would have given candidates 52 days to submit their paperwork. The registration forms weren’t available until Feb. 12 and were due the 18, allowing a six-day window to register.
After receiving an email from Laliberte, Chancellor Lovell wrote a letter to SA President Tereza Pelicaric, notifying her that the UWM administration would not recognize the elections as valid.
“As you may know, this is an unprecedented decision by the UWM administration, but I believe it is warranted under the circumstances based on the egregious nature of the many procedural flaws in the election process,” Lovell stated in the letter.
Lovell wrote that the administration’s decision to not recognize the results of the SA election “is warranted under the circumstances based on the egregious nature of the many procedural flaws in the election process.”
UWM will have a new structure and will operate under a new constitution as an attempt to fix those flaws. Only time will tell if those are the changes needed.
Commissioner Welch said the IEC would usually end up being the Chief Justice because the Senate and Executive Branch could never agree on IEC nominations. He said the appointment of seven IEC members through shared governance would make for a more fair election process than it has in the past.
Shared governance is a process by which students are appointed by the Shared Governance Director to serve on committees, the IEC in this case, to have direct influence on student and university issues.
There was only one IEC member in the old system, appointed by the Senate. If the Senate approved no one, the Chief Justice would serve the role, which was most often the case.
Both the new and old SA governmental systems consist of three branches: executive, legislative and judicial.
The greatest difference in function will be in the passing of new legislation.
In the old system, the Legislative Branch would pass legislation and forward it to the Executive Branch for approval or veto. This created a lot of fighting between the two branches and resulted in little-to-no cooperation between them.
The new system has the Executive and Legislative Branches work on legislation together. Welch says this will circumvent the old problems in executive vetoes.
Welch also says he expects this to create a proactive role on the part of the Executive Branch, and ultimately create a more effective legislative process. The Executive Committee will be required to sit in legislative sessions, with the President serving an ex-officio, or non-voting capacity, except in the case of a tie.
The Judicial Branch, formerly the University Student Court, is now the Oversight and Appeals Commission. The members of the judicial branch were referred to as justices in the old structure and are commissioners in the new one. There will exist a new responsibility in this branch, the Human Resources Commissioner.
All official positions in the SA are paid. These officials control the distribution of segregated fees, to the tune of millions of dollars.
The Human Resources Commissioner will process applications for hiring and appointment of officials and forward them to the Executive Branch for approval. In the old system, the SA President could nominate and remove people at will, which caused a lot of favoritism in the past
Finally, the SA will not recognize party affiliation in the new system.