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The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

SGA president overrides voting precedence

SGA Executive President Jess Guida appointed herself as the board of trustees representative without a vote. Photo courtesy of Beacon Archives.

Student Government Association Executive President Jess Guida appointed herself as the board of trustees representative without a vote at a Sept. 18 joint session meeting. In an interview with the Beacon, she admitted it may not have been the best choice.

The board of trustees representative acts as a liaison between undergraduate students and the board of trustees. The representative delivers a speech to the board at meetings in October, February, and May.

Guida said she appointed herself to the position without a vote to leave a legacy for future representatives and to increase student interaction with the board of trustees.

Prior to the fall 2018 elections, there was no defined process for how to proceed with appointing a board of trustees representative. A constitutional amendment passed this semester mandates joint session to approve the board of trustees representative with a vote requiring two-thirds approval.

However, the amendment does not go into effect until fall 2019. The original draft of the amendment proposed the executive president would always be the de facto representative to the board of trustees. The first draft was shot down with eight “no” votes and one abstention.

Despite no documented process, for the past four years, executive presidents appointed the board of trustees representative by a vote in joint session meetings, according to meeting minutes dating back to 2014 on the SGA website. Former Executive Presidents Emily Solomon, 2014-17 and Annie Makielski, 2017-18 both allowed the appointments to be approved via votes in joint session meetings.

The fall 2013 minutes provide no information on whether or not a vote took place to appoint the board of trustees representative.

“I could do whatever I wanted on a broad scale. There’s nothing written down. There’s nothing anywhere,” Guida said in an interview. “It’s just something that is … designated to the president to SGA to say, ‘OK, find us a representative, appoint someone to the board.’”

The executive president is charged with appointing the board of trustees representative, according to Guida.

Guida said appointing herself as the board of trustees representative may not have been the best choice at the time. However, she said she stands by her reasoning.

“I can acknowledge that it may not have been the best move for me to make, and that’s just how it is and I don’t have a time machine and I can’t go back,” Guida said. “I can’t go back but, like I said, I can make better decisions for the future.”

Guida said she talked to SGA Advisor Sharon Duffy, Vice President and Dean for Campus Life James Hoppe, and President M. Lee Pelton about the issue, and nobody had the same description for the position.  

“We talked a lot about the position because there’s no job description of this position. That doesn’t exist anywhere—nobody has that,” Guida said. “The answers weren’t conflicting, but nobody had a one-liner for the position.”

Hoppe said he and Guida discussed the pros and cons of the executive president and the board of trustees representative being the same person and the best way to ensure a connection between the members of the board and the student body.

“Ideally, you want somebody who has the ability to present that broad picture and then also to speak with authority on issues on-campus and be able to answer questions that come from members of the board,” Hoppe said. “Oftentimes, the president of SGA is in a good position to fill that role.”

Executive Vice President Raz Moayed held the board of trustees representative position for the 2017-2018 academic year. Moayed said over the summer of 2018, Executive Treasurer Ian Mandt, Guida, and herself were all interested in becoming the representative.

Guida, Mandt, and Moayed are all members of the SGA executive board, and all acknowledged their interest in the position during separate interviews.

“Over the summer, Ian, Jess, and I were all talking about running and how we should try different options of getting more than one student in the board of trustees room,” Moayed said in an interview. “It was just this summer conversation about ‘OK, we’re all going to go out for it … we’re going to leave it to a vote, doesn’t matter,’ all that jazz.”

Moayed said she remembers Guida saying the executive president should be the de facto representative to the board of trustees after having conversations with Duffy and Hoppe.

At first, Moayed said she wanted to understand Guida’s decision to self-appoint herself to the board of trustees position. However, Moayed said she disagrees with the fact SGA members and students were left out of the decision process for appointing the board of trustees representative for the 2018-2019 academic year.  

“I think there is a way of effectively getting what you want while still having people have a voice,” Moayed said. “When [Guida] brought it up to joint session it was in her reports, so reports are hard to listen to every single one, anyways, and there is no room for discussion on reports anyways.”

Moayed added she supports Guida as the board of trustees representative moving forward.

“I trust her, and I feel like I’m allowed to share the story of what happened,” Moayed.

Mandt, the executive treasurer, said anything put before joint session should generally receive a vote. However, Mandt said he takes no issue with Guida appointing herself to the position.

“I think [Guida is] excellent for it and has done a great job,” Mandt said. “But, I think because that’s the way it had been done in the past, doing it by vote, wouldn’t have hurt.”

Guida said she feels glad a defined process now exists for selecting a board of trustees representative following the fall 2018 elections.

I’m glad that future presidents when faced with this, will have something to go off of because there’s a process there,” she said. “I’m in this position, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to make mistakes, you know, and I hope that people will let me know when those mistakes happen.”

News editor Riane Roldan did not edit this article. 

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About the Contributor
Chris Van Buskirk
Chris Van Buskirk, Former Editor-in-Chief/Emerson ‘21
Chris Van Buskirk graduated in 2021. He worked for the State House News Service and MassLive before moving on to the Boston Herald as a state house reporter in May 2023.

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