By Kourtney Husnick
Cleveland State University’s Student Government Association (SGA) finished the replacement process for their treasurer position Aug. 30, filling an empty executive board seat without following their constitution’s guidelines for the second academic year in a row.
The spring SGA election’s winning executive board ticket lost their treasurer candidate over the summer and began working to fill the vacancy in mid-July, according to Omar Wahdan, SGA’s president.
“We followed the constitutional progress,” Wahdan said. “I sent apps to the senate, and then I advertised it right.”
As the organization’s constitution requires, Wahdan began the search for a new treasurer within the membership of the newly-elected senate.
“We opened the applications for treasurer to senators, and none of them applied,” Milica Prica, SGA’s vice president, said. “So, therefore, in the operations manual and the constitution, it says that we can reach out to anyone else who the president sees fit.”
However, that is not the entire process that the constitution specifies. According to SGA’s currently-recognized constitution, Wahdan was required to advertise the treasurer position’s vacancy for a period of two to four weeks in the campus media in order to gather applications.
“Social media was also used in addition to some of the other mentioned sources,” Wahdan said, when asked how and to whom the applications were advertised. “The position was advertised to the Senate and other candidates.”
Those other-mentioned sources, as Wahdan listed in an email to The Cauldron’s editorial staff, were “email, word of mouth and other forms of advertisement.”
Wahdan did not respond when asked for a more specific answer, nor did SGA’s advisor, Matt Knickman, the director of student affairs and involvement, when the same question was posed to him after SGA’s last senate meeting on Sept. 6.
No social media posts advertising the position or mentioning the newly-appointed treasurer currently exist on any of the SGA accounts. None of SGA’s social media accounts have had any permanent posts since April. The position also was not advertised through any of Cleveland State’s mass emails or campus media publications.
When asked directly if the application was open and advertised to the entire student body, Wahdan did not respond.
Regardless, the SGA senate voted unanimously for Danielle Mihalcea, a former senator and secretary candidate for another losing ticket in the SGA election last spring, to fill the treasurer position for the academic year.
Mihalcea did not rejoin the senate before being appointed to the treasurer position, but she was announced as the treasurer during SGA’s roll call in their first senate meeting before the vote occurred to make her the new treasurer.
“We saw [Mihalcea] fit, and therefore, she applied, and we interviewed her, and she got the position,” Prica said.
SGA violated the terms of their constitution when filling an executive board position through the same process at the beginning of the fall 2018 semester while Wahdan, Prica and Mihalcea were all senators.
During the spring 2019 semester, The Cauldron printed several stories related to SGA’s constitutional violations, including a piece about the improper appointment of Juliana Kosik, the now former SGA vice president. Knickman, who was new to being SGA’s advisor at the time, explained that SGA would have internal discussions about the constitution moving forward, but a year later, he did not respond when asked how that played into decisions surrounding this year’s treasurer position vacancy.
In addition to being some of the highest-ranked student representatives at the university, Cleveland State’s SGA executive board members each receive Student Leadership Scholarships (SLS) totaling $4,000 per semester.
The treasurer works with about $250,000 from the general fee budget annually, alongside SGA’s finance committee, to decide whether or not student organizations that submit finance requests receive funding for every aspect of their operations. Approximately $24,000 was approved by the senate from the first finance hearing under Mihalcea at the last SGA meeting on Sept. 6.
In addition to Mihalcea’s improper appointment, she also did not complete an oath of office after her position ratification as required of all SGA members by the organization’s operations manual.
This is not the first time the current executive board made a push to operate outside SGA’s governing documents.
As a senator and president-elect last spring, Wahdan urged the senate to hold speaker trials at the April 26 meeting, regardless of the incoming senate not having the authority to make any voting decisions until after the last day of the spring semester, with Prica sharing her opinion as well.
“Coming in as the new e-board for next semester, I would prefer that we do speaker elections today [April 26] just so we have time to work with the speaker throughout the summer,” Prica said at the time.
After the discussion between the executive board, cabinet members and Knickman during an attempted silent vote, speaker trials were pushed to the fall semester to accommodate for the constitution’s requirements.
A vote occurred Friday, Sept. 6 during SGA’s second senate meeting to make returning senator, Renee Betterson, the new speaker of the senate. She was the only applicant attempting a speaker trial and was elected unanimously. This process followed the SGA operations manual by making the selection no sooner than the second meeting and no later than the fourth, while Prica filled in as the chair for senate meetings in the meantime.
Executive board members have brought up references to last year’s conflicts between SGA’s actions and their governing documents at both senate meetings so far, and in each case, Wahdan and Prica have claimed to be completely following the constitution and operations manual’s requirements.
Wahdan offered to answer any questions The Cauldron’s staff might have about SGA’s actions and the constitution, regardless of not responding to most of them.
“I’m very well-versed in the constitution,” Wahdan said.