Student Association President Omar Woodard vetoed legislation Friday that would have asked students to raise the SA fee and make changes to the organization’s constitution.
After creating a special Constitutional Revision Commission over the summer to revise the SA’s governing documents, Woodard rejected the committee’s proposed changes, preventing students from voting on the amended document in the March 2 and 3 election.
Woodard also vetoed a referendum that would have asked students to raise the student fee by $1. The SA student fee is a $1 per credit hour tax on students used to fund the SA and student organizations. The referendum, a similar version of which failed to pass last year, would have raised the fee to $2 per credit hour.
“There’s a call you have to make and as SA president you have to decide what is best for the students,” Woodard said after the special Senate meeting Friday night. “I don’t think that a 100 percent student fee increase is best for the students. Considering that students voted it down last year, what would make them approve it this year?”
Woodard said he would have supported a smaller percentage increase but questioned if the SA has the “manpower” to handle the $900,000 budget that would have resulted from the referendum’s passage.
“A complete overhaul is not what we need,” Woodard said. “We need reform.”
Woodard also vetoed two referenda that would have amended the SA constitution to clarify ambiguities and to raise election threshold minimums. If the referenda were passed, the election threshold would have been raised from 40 percent to 50 percent for the presidential and executive vice presidential races. Students will still be asked to vote on a referendum calling on GW to allow students to sit on its Board of Trustees.
Even though he created the committee, Woodard effectively killed all of the recommendations it offered by preventing students from voting on them.
“I loved the changes, that’s the reason I put the committee together,” Woodard said. “The problem was that language in the constitution that defines how a student fee increase is enacted was removed and gave that power to the Senate with a two-thirds vote.”
Woodard said he vetoed the legislation because he “never agreed to that.”
Sen. Ben Traverse (CCAS-U), who is running for president and has publicly attacked Woodard in the past for frivolous spending, acted as chair of the committee and said he was “saddened” by the vetoes.
“It is unfortunate that the president of the SA has become an obstacle to democracy,” Traverse said.
Traverse, who recused himself from voting in the meeting, said it was “strange” that Woodard would veto legislation from a committee he created.
“If he, or any other member of the executive, had played a larger role – or any role at all – in the committee’s drafting of the amendments then this problem could have been avoided out in committee,” Traverse said.
At Friday night’s special Senate meeting, EVP Anyah Dembling asked freshman Columbian College undergraduate Senate candidate Chris Rotella not to serve his regular job as Senate parliamentarian to “remove even the idea of a conflict of interest.”
Rotella responded to Dembling’s request by resigning from his position. Rotella is running on the Coalition for Reform slate, headed up by Traverse.
In a similar move, Senate Chief of Staff Charlie Leizear also resigned after Dembling asked him to turn in his keys to her office.
Dembling said she could “no longer trust” Leizear after he submitted Woodard’s vetoed legislation to the Joint Elections Committee without her consent. The JEC oversees the election and would have put the legislation on the ballot had Dembling not removed it.
“Anyah blocked legislation from going before the students,” Leizear said. “Why should one person block a question that 22,000 students should have an opportunity to vote on?”
Leizear said it was Dembling’s obligation to submit the legislation to the JEC. Because she failed to, he took it upon himself to deliver the bills to the JEC, he said.
Assistant secretary of the Senate Lindsey Shapiro also resigned in support of Leizear Friday night.
The special Senate meeting was called Friday night after five senators, all affiliated with Traverse’s Coalition for Reform slate, signed a petition calling for a meeting to review rules the JEC has added to the 2005 election charter.
The Senate repealed three of the 15 additional rules the JEC created.