By: Kourtney Husnick
After discovering inconsistencies between the Cleveland State University Student Government Association’s (SGA) current constitutional update process and the organization’s acting constitution in The Cauldron’s last issue, The Cauldron launched an in-depth investigation into the practices of SGA under its recognized constitution, operations manual and position descriptions.
As previously reported, the Investigation and Legislation (I&L) Committee — which is charged with the responsibility of making constitutional revisions, enforcing constitutional adherence and reviewing SGA policy and membership — is currently being chaired by the organization’s director of policy and procedures, rather than the speaker of the senate, who is listed as the required chair in the constitution.
However, constitutional violations began before the revision process.
The SGA executive board filled a vacancy at the beginning of the fall 2018 semester when the elected vice president transferred schools. The senate ratified the new vice president, Juliana Kosik, at their first meeting of the academic year on Sept. 7, 2018.
“If the SGA Vice President is unable to serve for any reason, the President shall recommend a new Vice President from the membership of the Senate, who will serve out the remaining term of office,” the constitution specifies.
According to that meeting’s minutes, Kosik was listed as the “Interim Vice President” before the senate’s vote to ratify her position, and she announced that she would like to officially fill the vice president role at the beginning of the meeting. She was not on the ballot as a senator during the elections for the 2018-2019 year last spring semester.
Elections are one of two ways students can enter the SGA senate. If a student enters the senate during the academic year they serve, they are required to fill out an application on OrgSync, receive 64 active student signatures on a senator petition and become ratified at the next senate meeting before taking their oath of office and officially obtaining the senator title.
Matt Knickman, SGA’s advisor and the director of student activities and involvement, said he could not remember whether or not Kosik was a senator in the fall semester before becoming the vice president.
“I remember the conversation of ‘We have a vacancy. Per the constitution, here’s how we’re filling it,’” Knickman said.
From what The Cauldron could determine through the Board of Elections (BOE) candidates list from last spring and the Sept. 7 SGA senate meeting minutes, Kosik was not a senator at any point for the 2018-2019 academic year.
The SGA vice president position earns a $4,000 Student Leadership Scholarship (SLS) each semester and represents the overall student body to Cleveland State administration and faculty. The vice president also succeeds to the presidency if the SGA president becomes unable to serve for any reason, per the constitution.
“I think when you have a constitution, it’s always an important document, but it’s always a document that can be —within structure and rules, you know, I’ve seen people vote to suspend it in order to get positions filled, to not stop progress,” Knickman said. “SGA is a student organization. I would guess with our 175 student organizations, constitution management and following to a tee looks differently for everybody.”
However, the senate did not vote to suspend the constitution to place Kosik in the vice president position, according to the meeting minutes that refer to her ratification.
“I don’t know how the constitution has been used in years past and what all of the different things look like,” Knickman said.
Student organization constitutions fall under a portion of the Student Code of Conduct, and all organizations are expected to follow their documents as approved by the university.
“It is expected that all members of organizations individually and collectively will act consistently with the provisions of the [Student Code of Conduct], the organization’s constitution, university rules and regulations and applicable laws,” the code specifies.
Membership and position description violations stem into the SGA cabinet as well.
SGA’s director of graphic design and marketing, Melissa Moon, has missed at least five senate meetings this academic year, according to the meeting minutes available on OrgSync. Counting three tardy’s at other meetings, she has missed six of the nine total senate meetings this academic year, per the organization’s constitution.
“A late arrival shall be any amount of time over (15) minutes after the start of a Senate Meeting,” the document explains. “Each late arrival constitutes one-half (1/2) of an absence.”
The constitution specifies that senators are not allowed to miss more than two senate meetings without prior approval due to legitimate conflicts, but even in that situation, senators cannot miss more than 50 percent of the scheduled meetings. While a minimum is not specifically set for cabinet members, the document does address their attendance.
“Effective fall 2007, a Senator who has a class, which inhibits their ability to attend Senate Meetings, is not eligible to hold a cabinet position,” the constitution states.
Regardless, many members of the organization believe directors are not required to attend the senate meetings.
“Directors are actually not held to the same standard with regards to meetings,” Samia Shaheen, SGA president, explained in an email to The Cauldron. “Our Senate meetings require the mandatory attendance of senators, not directors or executive board.”
Position descriptions for the executive board and all seven directors contradict this statement. The basic duties of every director include attending “SGA Meetings, including those of the Senate, Cabinet and applicable committee meetings,” according to the most recent cabinet position descriptions posted to the SGA OrgSync page.
Executive board members are also not exempt. Their basic duties include attending “SGA Meetings, including those of the Senate, Cabinet and Executive Board,” each individual executive board position description states.
Disagreements over attendance policies are not the only inconsistencies between current cabinet member position descriptions and the actual representatives filling those roles.
While looking through SGA’s files on OrgSync, The Cauldron discovered that Moon also scheduled all of her office hours off campus, with part of them on Saturday afternoons. Her posted office hour times for the fall 2018 semester also only amount to 7.5 hours, which is 2.5 hours less than required by her position description and scholarship amount as it appears in the cabinet position descriptions file on SGA’s OrgSync.
SGA’s operations manual requires SGA members to be “available and present” during their office hour times and to “maintain a minimum of 75% of their posted office hours during normal Cleveland State University business hours, defined as Monday through Friday between the hours of 8 AM and 6 PM.”
Office hour adjustments, if any have been made for the spring semester, have not been posted on SGA’s OrgSync page. The most up-to-date listings available include last semester’s director of finance, who is no longer a member of SGA.
The Cauldron attempted to reach Moon for comment, but she did not provide a response to the questions posed by the newspaper.
As SLS receivers, student representatives in these roles sign an agreement for each semester stating that they will perform the duties of their position descriptions. Possible SLS positions add up to a total $51,000 annual expense for SGA’s budget, which comes from a portion of student tuition as the general fee, according to the listed scholarship amounts on each position description.
The executive board is expected to evaluate each cabinet member and “determine whether renewal of each Cabinet member scholarship is advisable” after the end of each semester, according to the current SGA operations manual, which expands upon and clarifies the constitution.
When discussing constitution and position description violations, Knickman explained that SGA would move forward by having internal discussions.
However, the SLS agreement that all director and executive board members sign makes removal decisions and scholarship terminations the responsibility of Shannon Greybar Milliken, the interim vice provost of student affairs, in consultation with Knickman, as the organization’s advisor.