Nothing SA Senate has done this semester has counted.
That was the announcement All-Campus Judicial Council Chief Justice Madeline Blackburn made at Monday night’s SA Senate meeting, after it surfaced that senior Alhassan Omar had only been a senator in name, not by the rules.
Omar is studying abroad and has not paid the student activities fee — the ticket price for Students’ Association membership — making him ineligible for office this semester.
That means every vote Senate took this semester — including committee chair appointments, the certification of fall elections results, and deputy speaker selections — must be redone. And appeals could come.
“I’m not saying that there weren’t times when we got the votes we needed,” Blackburn said. “The issue is that it’s not about stuff that’s happened, so far as is it constitutional. You guys are going to have to do everything all over again.”
The news sent senators and spectators into a frenzy as people tried to figure out what their schedules would look like.
Many SA committees were set to meet this week, and a committee chair training session had been scheduled for this weekend. It is unclear how many meetings will still go on now.
Administration and Review Committee chair Alex Guerrero said he still planned to hold meetings with prospective student groups this week and would ask SA adviser Laura Ballou to override the rules so the committee could still function. But the committee’s senators must be reappointed, Blackburn clarified, so none of them would yet be able to vote.
Guerrero and SA Treasurer CJ Van Huben were confirmed in May, making them the only committee chairs unaffected by the mishap.
“It’s screwed up,” Blackburn told the Senate. “The vote counts are completely screwed up. From when we started, up until now. It’s something that I have said, and has been said, and was said when this first happened. It’s now [getting to] the point where it’s a serious problem.”
The confusion has paved the way for students to file appeals against the Senate since it operated unconstitutionally for the past month.
One such appeal could come if Senate votes to keep freshman Alexander Pavlicin as its deputy speaker. Pavlicin was elected during the second night of deputy speaker selections at the Sept. 18 meeting. One week prior, freshman Rebecca Lena had garnered seven votes to Pavlicin’s three in an executive session — which, unrelated to Monday’s incident, the Campus Times found lacked enough votes to commence.
Had Omar officially been a senator, Lena would have needed eight votes to be elected deputy speaker. But since Omar was not technically a senator, Lena would only have needed seven votes to be elected.
Pavlicin declined to comment. Lena could not be reached.
Blackburn also said — referencing the 2015 ACJC case Almast v. Students’ Association Government — the gap left by Omar must be filled by the next SA meeting.
Blackburn announced that this would be junior Sharfuz Shifat.
Shifat, who was not aware of the situation, declined comment.
Some senators seemed to take the situation in stride.
“I think every organization messes up sometimes. We did too,” senior Senator Lindsay Wrobel said. “Our leadership team is great, and I have every confidence that they will take this week and figure out where we go from here to make this right.”
When approached by the Campus Times, Senator Leif Johansen jokingly tried to divert the interview to the weather outside before saying: “I really appreciate that we’re playing it by the book. I think a lot of student governments, including my high school student government, would never have played this by the book. I think that it’s really important that we play this by the book. Student governments two decades from now are going to look back and say, ‘Wow. These guys really had their stuff together. They were playing it by the rules. They knew what was up. They read the constitution. They read the bylaws, the PPM’s. They knew how it worked. They were very mature.’”
Others seemed reluctant to discuss what happened, ignoring the Campus Times reporter present or declining to comment.
Speaker of the Senate Jake Braniecki and Blackburn said they and SA President Jordan Smith and SA Vice President Becca Mooney would be meeting Tuesday with their advisers to discuss the situation and how to proceed.
The situation stems from over a month of debate about Omar, who is currently in South America, should be allowed to continue as a senator despite this semester’s absence.
The debate, which reached its fourth week Monday night, ended after Braniecki told those in the Gowen Room that Omar, who hadn’t paid the student activities fee since he was studying abroad, could not even be considered senator based on Article I of the SA Constitution.
This article will be updated if more developments arise.
Junior Trevor Bradshaw contributed reporting to this piece.