The Student Government Association is set to proceed with their spring general elections Monday with no balloted or write-in candidates for the position of executive treasurer for the first time in at least 19 years, a former SGA advisor said.
Should the treasurership be left vacant by the upcoming election, SGA will be left in an unfamiliar position. Former SGA advisor Sharon Duffy, who worked with the organization for 19 years, said that during her time as advisor, no SGA election has left the job unfilled.
“In my experience, there has not always been confirmed candidates that were on a ballot meaning that sometimes an election happened where there was only a write-in option,” Duffy said in a phone interview. “I personally have not experienced a time where we started an academic year without a sitting treasurer, a person in the role.”
The executive treasurer position, which has been the subject of controversy in past years, holds considerable control over approximately $1.2 million in student organization funding, which comes out of students’ pockets via the student activity fee. The treasurer also plays a critical role in influencing SGA treasury policy, serving as the chair of both the Financial Advisory Board—which delegates organization funding through the Annual Budget Request and appeals processes—and the newly created Financial Equity Committee, which will hear students’ financial concerns and make recommendations to the college.
Current Executive Treasurer Abigail Semple told The Beacon in a Zoom interview Monday that she believes the demanding nature of the role is responsible for the lack of interest and the controversy surrounding it.
“I don’t think anybody ever wants to do this job,” she said. “This job is impossible. This job is overwhelming. This job is excessive. This job is unforgiving. This job is like a million rocks on your shoulder all day long.”
The upcoming election and the potential vacancy come on the heels of a complete overhaul of SGA’s basic framework in the form of a new constitution that was only officially ratified last week. The organization’s next group of leaders will inherit an SGA unlike any other in the last 20 years, and will likely set the tone for student government at the college moving forward.
Without a precedent, it is unclear how the organization would handle the vacancy. Article XIV section 2 point E of SGA’s new constitution allows for the Executive President to appoint a designee to fill a vacant office. The appointee would be subject to a two-thirds vote by Student Assembly, previously known as a joint session.
The executive treasurer’s immediate successor would be the vice treasurer, another position that will be unfilled at the start of the 2020-2021 academic year. The role is filled by appointment with the endorsement of the executive treasurer and no one currently holds the job. The vice treasurer has in the past been a part of a treasury team intended to aid the executive treasurer in carrying out their duties.
Despite repeated complaints about the demanding workload that accompanies the position, Semple did not hire a treasury team, at one point citing a lack of interest from the student body in an interview with The Beacon. Ian Mandt, who held the role of executive treasurer before Semple, chose to utilize a treasury team of three people, including a vice treasurer, during his second semester in the role. No other treasurer before Mandt had chosen to use a treasury team, but the option was only available for several executive treasurers before him.
Without a successor, the next executive president will have the option to appoint an executive treasurer but could face a roadblock in trying to find someone who is willing to take on the intense workload.
If the executive president cannot find someone to appoint, it may be possible for the organization to continue operating and completing the necessary funding work without a treasurer.
Chief Justice Joseph Johnson pointed to Article V, Section 5 of the new constitution which dictates that if no executive treasurer is elected and no vice treasurer has been appointed, FAB can appoint a Treasurer Pro Tempore to lead the board in their absence. FAB would then likely work as a group to complete the duties of the treasurer.
Semple said she believes SGA will be able to continue normal operations without an executive treasurer.
“I don’t think that it’s going to be the end of the world,” she said. “I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that the reimbursement process is seamless and able to be taken on by whomever it needs to be taken on by. Obviously, in the absence of an executive treasurer, student organization operations will still happen.”
SGA’s current advisor Jason Meier said the path forward in handling the vacancy will become clear once a new executive board is in place.
“[The lack of an executive treasurer] would be the pressing item that the new executive board would have to address and figure out,” he said in a phone interview.