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Update 2/20/2023, 12:15 a.m.: Student Body President Taliajah "Teddy" Vann said she does not recognize her nomination of former Student Body Vice President Sam Robinson to serve on the UNC Student Supreme Court to be official.

The Daily Tar Heel obtained a letter sent by Vann to Undergraduate Senate Speaker Christian Phillips on Saturday in which she expressed this view.

"Samuel Robinson does not have my nomination for any Student Government position at this time and if you considered the previously attached draft letter to be a nomination, it shall be considered a fully rescinded nomination moving forward,” Vann said in her Feb. 18 letter.

Vann said in that letter that she did not intend for the initial nomination resolution to be presented to the full Senate during the Feb. 16 meeting without consideration by the Rules and Judiciary Committee.

She said she has made clear to Phillips that it was not her intention to formally nominate Robinson to serve as a justice on the court.

Vann said previous nominations that have been delivered to her office as student body president have required a handwritten signature from her to move forward in any official capacity. Phillips and Andrew Gary, the chairperson of the Senate’s Rules and Judiciary Committee, said nominations do not require a handwritten signature to be considered.

Vann did not hand-sign the letter nominating Robinson sent on Feb. 16. She also did not hand-sign the letter sent on Saturday, in which she said she did not recognize the nomination as official.

“At this time, it is clear and has been communicated in my formal letter to the Speaker that Sam Robinson does not have my nomination to any position,” Vann said. “If the Speaker viewed any document from me as a nomination, they should consider it fully rescinded at this time, and I’m grateful to have clarified any misunderstanding.”

Vann said there is no current disagreement between her office and the speaker’s office regarding the situation and that the two parties are engaging in shared governance. 

Phillips sent a letter responding to Vann’s most recent letter on Sunday. In this letter, he said the president’s Feb. 16 letter “constituted a nomination (to the court) in the context established by (her) office.”  

The nomination, he said, was presented to the full Senate on Thursday, Feb. 16, based on this understanding. A motion to consider Robinson’s confirmation as a justice of the court failed to pass the Senate in that meeting. 

“Nominations submitted to the Senate in previous years have been far more informal and did not require extensive documentation, or even a signed document,” Phillips said in the letter.

Any pending resolution, including the one to consider confirming Robinson to the court, USR-104-390, can be rescinded by the sponsor until it is passed by the Senate, according to Gary.

The Undergraduate Senate is still awaiting formal confirmation from Vann in order to withdraw Robinson’s nomination. Vann said the office of the president had not replied to Phillips’s letter with such a confirmation by the time of publication.

The UNC Student Supreme Court’s website says a nominee is currently pending for the undergraduate vacancy in the court and hyperlinks to USR-104-390.

Robinson did not provide comment by the time of update publication.

A motion to consider former Student Body Vice President Sam Robinson's confirmation as a justice of the UNC Student Supreme Court failed to pass the Undergraduate Senate in a meeting on Thursday night. 

Four senators voted in favor, five voted against and 14 abstained. 

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The resolution, USR-104-390, was on the "General Orders" portion of the senate meeting agenda. Before that motion was voted upon, a motion to postpone consideration of the resolution did not pass. 

As a result, the Senate did not discuss Robinson's nomination to the court during the meeting. The process to potentially confirm Robinson is still ongoing, and the Senate will likely discuss his nomination during its next scheduled meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 28.

Student Body President Taliajah "Teddy" Vann said it was her intention for the proposed legislation to be considered by the Undergraduate Senate during its next meeting — not the meeting on Thursday night. She said she preferred that the resolution be considered at that time so student senators could properly review Robinson's nomination in their capacity as public servants to the student body.  

She also said she believes the motion to consider the resolution failed because senators wanted more time to make an informed decision on whether to consider Robinson's nomination. 

"I think that there were many senators who shared my concern about this legislation making it onto the Senate agenda, despite the fact that it didn't go through the Rules and Judiciary Committee as I asked for it to in the draft letter and the fact that it appeared before the Senate without a formal signature," Vann said.

She said she did not consider the motion to be official because it was not signed by hand. She also said she did not know why the resolution was on the agenda for Thursday's meeting.

But Andrew Gary, the chairperson of the Undergraduate Senate's Rules and Judiciary Committee, said the president's handwritten signature on a nomination letter is not required for it to be considered by the chamber.

"That's not something that is required by our rules," he said. "Nomination letters are actually something that were started this year. To my knowledge, these are very ceremonial."

Undergraduate Senate Speaker Christian Phillips said the resolution was considered on an expedited basis. He said he acknowledged that Vann preferred to discuss Robinson's nomination during the Feb. 28 meeting, but that he felt it appropriate to bring it to the floor on Thursday.

"I respect the President's opinion on the matter, but once the nomination is made it is up to the Senate as how to move forward," Phillips said via text message.

Both Phillips and Gary said Vann's remarks to the Senate on Thursday communicated to them that she was comfortable with the resolution to confirm Robinson being considered that night.

Gary said the Rules and Judiciary Committee did not have the chance to meet and review the nomination, which Vann sent to Phillips and Gary on Thursday, before the entire senate met that night.

The full Undergraduate Senate meets every two weeks. Gary said senate committees usually meet on the Tuesdays on which the full senate chamber does not.

A copy of the nomination letter was obtained by The Daily Tar Heel. It shows Vann's typed name but not her handwritten signature. 

Robinson said that he often wrote nomination letters for different positions in student government while he served as vice president. He said the president then sent them to the Undergraduate Senate and that these letters rarely had the president's handwritten signature on them.

"The formal part of it is the Speaker signs off on a formal resolution once it's been voted on, certifying it as corrected proper," Robinson said. "So, depending on tradition and timing, it's been done different ways. There is no statutory requirements that I am aware of that says the president has to sign off on it."

He also said he would have preferred if the process to consider his application to serve on the court was delayed so that he could have the opportunity to speak to members of the Senate regarding his nomination and qualifications. 

The Undergraduate Senate is scheduled to meet again on Tuesday, Feb. 28. The agenda for this meeting has not yet been released. 

Preston Fore contributed reporting.

@guimolero | @livvreilly | @caitlyn_yaede

Caitlyn Yaede

Caitlyn Yaede is the 2023-24 print managing editor of The Daily Tar Heel and oversees weekly print production. She previously served as the DTH's opinion editor and summer editor. Caitlyn is a public policy master's student at UNC.

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