Student Congress members have diverted attention from their traditional duties of funding groups and representing the student body.
This year’s members have filed several lawsuits against each other and other members of student government in a flurry faculty adviser Jon Curtis called “unusual.”
In the last week: Two members of Student Congress filed a lawsuit against Speaker Joe Levin-Manning, Levin-Manning filed a lawsuit against the Board of Elections that another member had considered filing but decided against and the board’s chairman said things are being blown out of proportion.
Pieces of legislation have been delayed, grudges have been held and one member, annoyed by the bickering, has left the body all together.
Members have pointed to the inexperience of the 91st session, a confusing Student Code and a passionate group of individuals who won’t let issues drop as the reasons for argumentative sessions and increased legal activity.
“Everyone wants to put in their two cents about it, but no one really has a full understanding about it,” said Congress member Tyler Aiken.
The lawsuits revolve around a bill that appropriated $2,095 to Students for a Democratic Society on Nov. 10.
The suit against Levin-Manning, filed Wednesday, claims that he misinterpreted Congress rules while presiding over the last meeting, changing the outcome of the vote.
Levin-Manning’s suit, filed Monday, is against the chairman of the Board of Elections, who Levin-Manning alleges incorrectly administered the Nov. 5 special election.
Because he believed the election to be invalid, he refused to let two newly elected members vote, which could have changed the close SDS vote.
Student Body President Jasmin Jones has not signed the bill into law yet, and the lawsuits are awaiting hearings from the Student Supreme Court. There is a chance that the bill will be overturned depending on the outcome of both cases.
“We’re getting into meatier legislation, legislation with more consequences, so that would naturally increase the level of animosity,” said Congress member Anthony Dent.
While Congress members’ attitudes might have something to do with the problem, they could also be attributed to a complex and sometimes contradictory Student Code that hasn’t been seriously revised in 10 years.
“I don’t think that the problem is with members of Student Congress misunderstanding the Code,” said Kevin Kimball, Congress’ parliamentarian, who is charged with helping Congress follow the rules.
“I think the problem is that the Code is unclear and sometimes contradicts itself.”
Some of the confusion can also be chalked up to inexperience. Of the 41 members of Congress, only two served in the organization last year.
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