The Student Court could decide this week how much discretionary power the Student Association executive vice president holds in the creation of Senate procedures.
Graduate Sen. Emily Cummins (CSAS) filed a suit with the court last week against EVP Tony Sayegh, alleging he disregarded the SA’s bylaws when he allowed two senators to change their proxies for the Feb. 26 Senate meeting.
Cummins’ suit asks that all votes taken at the meeting be invalidated and taken again.
SA rules for proxy votes allow a senator who must miss a meeting to grant permission to another senator to vote on bills that come up at the meeting.
The Senate’s bylaws currently require proxy vote requests to be submitted in writing at least one day before the meeting.
Cummins said several senators proxied their votes to her in writing, but later verbally changed their proxies to Sen. Bob Nelson (SMHS).
In her suit, Cummins said because the procedure outlined in the bylaws grants the proxies to her, Nelson should not have been granted the votes.
“The proxy procedures are clearly outlined and were not properly followed and it was known that they were not being followed . the bylaws were abused on purpose,” Cummins said.
Four senators proxied their votes to Nelson at the Feb. 26 meeting. According to the complaint, Nelson was able to use his five votes to “control all significant” votes taken at the meeting.
Sayegh said it has been his practice all year to allow senators to verbally designate other senators as their proxies.
“Graduate students often have jobs and other projects they are working on and often situations arise, so I have been flexible with taking proxies verbally or over the phone if necessary,” Sayegh said. “This has been my policy all year and Emily has never complained about it before.”
Cummins said she was unaware of Sayegh’s policy. But she said regardless of whether his policy was well-known, the EVP cannot create policies that contradict the Senate’s bylaws.
“Even if the EVP does have the ability to adopt these unofficial policies, he should not adopt a policy in direct contradiction to a written policy,” Cummins said. “This is an example of stretching the role a bit too much.”
Student Court Chief Justice Tom Boer said the suit will be heard on Monday, in hopes that the issue will be decided before the next Senate meeting.
Cummins said she filed the suit merely on principle, not because of the issues at stake at the Feb. 26 meeting. Many of the votes taken that night regarded ballot questions, so taking the votes again after the election would be a moot point.
“It was with regret that I filed this court case at all,” Cummins said. “I consider Tony a friend, but I saw no other way to address this problem.”