By Meghan Brink | October 12, 2021
Seven weeks into the semester, student groups can still not request supplemental funding due to the Student Association senate’s failure to elect a vice-chairperson.
Last Wednesday’s senate meeting concluded after two rounds of voting for Vice-Chair left no candidate with the required two-thirds majority required to win. First-term Senator Divya Tulsiani scored 56% of the vote in the final round, and second-term Senator Brianna Ortiz scored 44%.
Student groups requesting additional funding outside of the money allocated in the annual SA budget must do so through the senate appropriations committee. These committees cannot form until after the election of a Vice-Chair.
President of Model European Union Cameron Cupp is one of many student organization leaders impacted by the delayed formation of committees.
“Our group goes to Belgium every two years for a conference that simulates the European Union,” said Cupp. “I understand SA does hard work, but it’s all we really do, and right now, we can’t help members who find themselves in less fortunate financial situations go to Belgium with us because we need an SA appropriation to do so.”
Current Chairman Nick Chin acknowledged angered student groups via Instagram before Wednesday’s senate meeting. He said, “by next week, we will be able to put together committees...for those student groups who are asking for supplemental funding and new non-funded funding, they can get that as well.”
According to the SA Constitution, the vice-chair must be elected at the meeting following new senators swearing-in each academic year. Given the multiple extensions that altered this year’s timeline for the fall general election, the swearing-in of this year’s senators occurred at a much later time than normal. Without a vice-chair being named at this past Wednesday’s senate meeting, the already late formation of these committees will be pushed to a later date.
After failing to elect a vice-chair, Chin expressed his frustrations to the senate in an email sent after Wednesday’s meeting.
“We, as a body, were elected to do a duty and for some who claimed to be all for the students to purposely delay and stall the election of the vice-chair is appalling to me and the hundreds of student groups who grow angrier at us by the day,” said Chin. “In my 3.5 years serving in the Student Association, I have never felt more disappointed in the branch that I lead.”
The candidates who ran for the vice-chair position included Sen. Divya Tulsiani, Sen. Kayla Cooper, and Sen. Brianna Ortiz.
After the first round of voting, Cooper only garnered three votes and was cast out of the race. Tulsiani scored 23 votes and Ortiz 15.
Prior to voting, the candidates were questioned by President Abdoullah Goudiaby and various other heads of SA branches on their ability to lead, their prospects for the Vice-Chair position, and if they will work to improve relationships in an increasingly tense senate.
Ortiz and Tulsiani both expressed confidence in their ability to lead in Chairman Chin’s absence and navigate any conflicts that might arise between Chin and themselves.
“Chairman Chin and I have had a couple of disagreements in discussing how we would run the senate,” said Ortiz. “I will never surprise him with a decision. I want to take the time to talk with him and all of you as well.”
Tulsiani responded and said, “Chairman Chin and I work together in many spheres. We have a working professional relationship with each other and understand how we work together. Disagreements are inevitable, however, but we have always treated each other with respect.”
According to Chin, Tulsiani has been acting in “unofficial capacity” as chair when Chin cannot be present at the senate.
If elected to vice-chair, Ortiz said that she would like to see increased training on the legislation process. “This stuff can be intimidating,” she said. “I want to introduce that to all of us so we can learn and bond. We will become more functional when we understand more.”
Tulsiani said that she would like to create a special committee to create events for the “student group population that left this campus as freshman and came back as juniors after the pandemic.”
To relax tensions within the senate, Ortiz said that she plans to “pursue an inner senate / SA roundtable to connect us to each other as well as the public so that we can get a better view on how we are being perceived by others.”
Tulsiani’s approach to creating better relationships among senators would be to create what she called the “lollipop challenge.”
“When you come into [the] senate on Wednesday, you will see a lollipop on your table with an anonymous note that gives you a compliment from a random senator that you are paired up with the week prior,” she explained. “This is not to gain alliances, but to make us feel more like a community rather than political opponents.”
The second round of voting gave Tulsiani 54% of the vote. However, her majority was not enough to reach the two-thirds required by the SA Constitution to score the vice-chair seat. The third round of voting was not held due to time constraints.
Chin called a special session that will take place this Wednesday at 8 p.m., where the senate’s sole objective will be to vote in the vice-chair Election. They will not be taking any speakers or considering any legislation.
If the senate fails to elect a vice-chair, Chin said that he is “unsure how senate will proceed,” and says he is looking into possible alternatives to move student clubs forward, such as “appointing an interim vice-chair and confirming committees with that person's approval--or meeting with the leadership to see what executive orders can be done. But my main focus is getting [the] senate to full operational speeds for our student groups.”