As the Student Association prepares for an emergency town hall meeting Monday to address recent scandals, unofficial letters are circulating within the SA Senate calling for the resignation of senior student government leaders.
Senators have also personally called for the resignations of Sens. J.P. Blackford (G-SEAS) and Dan Moss (U-SBPM).
Sen. Nina Kollars (G-ESIA) said she will resign her position this week if Blackford does not.
“I need Senator Blackford to step down,” she said, calling resignation an “appropriate sanction.”
A Lafayette Hall Community Facilitator, Kollars said there is a conflict of interest between her role as a CF and her role as a senator in light of the possibility that SA funds were used either to buy or to support an unregistered party at which alcohol was distributed to minors.
“It’s an ethical dilemma on my part . a contradiction I can’t resolve,” Kollars said. “If we can’t be an example of upholding the University’s rules, who can?”
Though Kollars acknowledged that Blackford, a nine-year senator, has been “invaluable” to the Senate, she said, “that doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t be held accountable.”
Kollars is joined by at least four other senators in calling for Blackford’s resignation. Sens. Adam Greenman (U-CCAS), Mark Hershfield (Law), Omar Woodard (U-ESIA) and Rodney Zwahlen (Law) all said Blackford should resign.
Greenman, Hershfield and Woodard have also called upon Moss to resign following an incident two weeks ago, when he produced a hidden tape recorder as a “scare tactic” after a conversation with SA President Phil Robinson. Moss said that he did not record the conversation, noting that he and Robinson have agreed to move on following the incident.
Hershfield said Blackford and Moss should at least resign their committee chair seats, noting that he believes the incident has affected their performance. Blackford chairs the Rules Committee, while Moss heads the Finance Committee.
“I have seen enough evidence . and certainly in my mind they are guilty,” he said.
Sen. Kate Rocco (U-ESIA) said she is waiting for more evidence before passing judgement on her colleagues.
Blackford said he believes accusations of fund misuse regarding a November 2001 expense report, which allotted him $440 for an engineering conference and which he signed himself, will be seen as “a minor technical violation of the bylaws.”
“As of now I have no intention of stepping down,” Blackford said.
He said he would “reevaluate” his position if circumstances arise that would prevent him from doing his job.
Moss also said he does not intend to step down, adding that the recent controversy has not affected his ability to do his job.
Robinson called an emergency town hall meeting for Monday at 9 p.m. in the Marvin Center Grand Ballroom to address the recent scandals in the student government and talk about students concerns.
“We want to know what students are concerned about,” Robinson said. “I know that students don’t care about the fighting and just want us to move on with the issues that affect them.”
Robinson said he has a number of ideas to change the structure of the SA, including the addition of an ethics committee that he said would “watch the SA and see that it is doing its job.” Robinson also suggested doubling the size of the Senate to almost 60 senators in an effort to reduce what he called “internal politics.”
Some students said they have lost faith in the student government and have called for the abolishment of the current student leadership.
“The system in place now doesn’t work; it allows corruption and allows a few people to abuse their positions,” said Joe Venti, a leader of the group Students for Accountability.
Venti’s group has scheduled a town hall meeting for Sunday to discuss alternate plans for student government. Venti said he believes the SA no longer represents student interests and that the SA charter calls for a student government but does not specify the form that government will take.
Graham Murphy, a former SA official who has joined the Students for Accountability drive for a new government, said the students deserve a better government.
“Everyone thinks that the system can’t change,” Murphy said. “Hopefully, even if we don’t replace the SA, it will give them a kick in the ass and make them work together.”