by Zach Tackett, Staff Writer
On November 3, students were given the opportunity to elect the new Executive Board of the Student Government Association. The positions of President, Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer all entail certain responsibilities which aid in maintaining SGA’s structure, and act as an advisory board for student representatives of the Senate. To fill the office of either President or Vice-President, candidates had to serve for at least three semesters on the Senate; for the offices of Secretary and Treasurer, the requirement is reduced to two semesters.
Before the elections, each candidate explained their goals and opinions concerning the office they had hoped to attain. All three candidates for Executive Board Treasurer stated a unified opinion that it is important for a strong line of communication between campus, the Executive Board, and the administration. Sophomore Tom Cocchi and junior Salvatore Re both stressed the importance of continuing with programs started this year. Cocchi mentioned the “letters to the alumni” program spearheaded by Amanda Skwara of the Alumni Committee, as well as a veteran’s event where they “had dinner with us, and went to mass, and shared their stories,” both of which he felt were “positive for our campus.” Re wants to continue with green initiatives, including recycling and replacing light bulbs with energy efficient light bulbs.
“There is a promotion going on with Allegheny Power where if you give them an incandescent bulb, they’ll give you a fluorescent one back,” said Re. “We’re trying to get the word out and inform people about it. It’s free; that’s the best thing it has going for it. And it also will help Saint Vincent cut down on energy costs.”
Junior candidate Laura Wohar stated that one of her goals focused on service.
“A personal goal of mine would be to incorporate more service projects on campus through SGA, focusing on areas of need both within and outside of our country,” she said. “I think it’s great how many service activities and projects there consistently are through SGA and other clubs and organizations on campus, but I think there’s still room for more. I’d love to see the student body put their heart into a service project, more than just their money, materials or time.”
For the office of Executive Board Secretary, both sophomore candidate Bridget Fitzpatrick and junior candidate Jessica Kennedy stressed the importance of communication to students to increase involvement though multiple mediums as well as new methods. However, each felt that they brought different experiences that would set them apart. Fitzpatrick has been a member of SGA for a shorter time, though she holds concentrated experience with the PR committee, of which the Executive Board Secretary becomes chair upon election.
“I bring experience on the PR Committee to this position. As sophomore class secretary, I am already familiar with many of the tasks associated with the position and I know how to accomplish those tasks as well,” stated Fitzpatrick.
However, Kennedy stressed the importance of general experience, not just experience with a particular committee.
“I believe that I have more experience as being a member of SGA longer than my opponent does; I have been at Saint Vincent longer, I know the campus better and I know what needs to be done and what needs to be improved upon,” Kennedy said.
Junior Taylor Guido ran unopposed in the race for Vice President, but she feels that she was the right candidate from the start.
“I am involved in athletics and honors societies, …I am involved all across the board with a lot of different things, so I think I will be able to look back at anything and see the different perspectives. I think the Executive Board should be able to relate to different people,” Guido said.
And even running unopposed, she hopes that she would have been elected even if she had faced an opponent.
“I hope that I can live up to people’s expectations for the role,” Guido added.
For the office of Executive Board President, the student body was divided between the two candidates. Juniors Renold Sossong and Cornelius Boggs both expressed their desire for a united campus and a hope that, if elected, they could be the voice of the students. Though the candidates stated what they thought set them apart from each other, Sossong stressed the importance of levelheadedness and professionalism.
“I think that I will bring a levelheaded and professional personality to this position. These traits will allow me to represent SVC’s students in an even-mannered way. This professionalism will help to maintain SGA’s reputation of being an organization based on cooperation with various campus groups, clubs, organizations, departments, and individuals,” Sossong said.
Boggs stated that his personality would set him apart as well as past experience.
“I think that I offer confidence, if there is one thing that is known about me it is that I don’t except no the first time. I think I also bring intelligence and grace. I feel as though having this position causes a great deal of stress, and you need to be able to keep your cool under pressure. I also bring experience serving as the freshmen and sophomore class President [for] the Class of 2012,” stated Boggs.
Out of the possible 1694 undergraduate students, 502 total votes were cast (almost 30%) which decided the new board. Renold Sossong won 63% of the vote, while Cornelius Boggs held 35%, and 2% of the vote abstained in the presidential race. Taylor Guido won the race unopposed. Bridget Fitzpatrick won a close Secretarial race, receiving 50% of the vote, leaving Jessica Kennedy with 47% of the vote and 3% abstaining. A runoff election was held on November 4, to decide between Salvatore Re and Laura Wohar, who ran against each other (and Tom Cocchi) for the office of Treasurer. Laura Wohar won this runoff election against Salvatore Re.
However, after the final election results were released to the public, claims were made by Boggs against the President-Elect Renold Sossong concerning his adherence to the rule against campaigning within the voting area. According to the SGA Constitution, the following rules must be upheld: “The election table shall be monitored by a member of the Student Government Association, who is not on the ballot for election, at all times during the scheduled election; all candidates on the ballot must remove all signs, posters, etc., from the building where the election will be held no later than one hour prior to the time of the scheduled election; all candidates are prohibited from campaigning inside or outside the building where voting will be taking place during the election” (Section 8, Article 3). The Boggs’ claims stated that Sossong remained present within the Carey Center (the building where voting took place) and that his supporters were around the voting area. Boggs also stated that his supporters were asked to leave the Carey Center.
“I knew from the candidacy meeting that I was not to be within the Carey Center. So I went in, voted, and I left. I did not return until I had a meeting with the Coordinator of Multicultural Student Life. People who were supporting me were told to leave and were not permitted to even be outside the Shack. However, I saw Renold was within the Carey Center for almost the entire voting period, and his supporters were around the voting area. And I understand that Renold had office hours, but they last a half-hour to an hour at most. My supporters were removed from even the area outside of the Shack, well the SGA office is within the Carey Center too,” Boggs said.
Jason Winters, the Director of Campus Life and one advisor for SGA, explained his efforts to try to keep the election fair.
“At a candidate meeting they are told the rules of the election. By 11 am all advertisements must be taken down and during the day. They can vote but must leave the voting area. No paraphernalia for any candidate under the roof of the Carey Center as a whole. We understand that students need to eat, so they can go to Shack, but they must eat and leave.”
Winters commented on the claims against Sossong, explaining Sossong’s responsibilities.
“It’s difficult because Renold is currently serving on SGA, Cornelius is not. Renold and other candidates on the ballot today had a meeting in the office and then he had office hours to complete. Renold could have asked another to serve his officer hours, but other candidates were in the office as well. It’s random as to what day, what class serves their office hours. This semester it was juniors, but it will change next semester.”
Sossong explained his actions, citing that his responsibilities as Class Secretary could not be forgotten.
“As [election day] was the Junior Senate’s day for office hours, I spent a certain amount of time in the SGA office. The SGA committee chairs also had a regularly scheduled meeting in the middle of the day. When I took that office I agreed to certain responsibilities that go into being a representative of the junior class. I can honestly sleep well at night knowing that the only times I was in the Carey Center Lounge, or anywhere near the actual voting was once when I cast my own ballot, which I had the right to do, and secondly to pick up a Founder’s Day dinner ticket. As our cotillion is coming up, I am currently finishing my time as Class Secretary. I had certain tasks that I had to complete for our project,” Sossong stated.
Winters tried to be near the voting area all day, so that the responsibility would not be on the students. He reminded one of Cornelius Boggs’ supporters that she must leave the Carey Center when she was sitting outside at picnic table outside the Shack. Winters also reminded another of Boggs’ supporters who was finished eating at the Shack that they shouldn’t remain in Carey Center with a supporting shirt on after he was done eating. He could vote with the paraphernalia on, but only in a limited amount of time that was judged appropriately by Winters. Winters also noted that it was easier to pick up a person with a shirt on than one without, but he added that one of Sossong’s supporters was also told to leave.
However, one of Boggs’ supporters felt that she was mistreated when supporting him. Charmaine Jemison was wearing her shirt in support of Boggs when she went to vote in the Carey Center and was approached before and after she voted.
“I was on SGA, so I knew that you weren’t allowed to be in the voting area with anything that could influence someone’s vote. Before I even got in line to vote, Jason Winters came up to me and said, ‘You know you’re not allowed to be in here with that shirt on.’ I said that I was just going to vote, and he replied, ‘OK, vote and leave.’ After voting, I was in the Shack getting food when [a member of the executive board] came up to me and said, ‘You know you could get Cornelius disqualified.’ And I just said, ‘I am not by the voting area, I’m getting food, can I just leave?”
Jemison proceeded to leave the Carey Center, and when she sat down to eat at the picnic tables, she says she was asked to leave again by Jason Winters.
“I have never seen anyone kicked out of the picnic tables in years past. I had just put the shirt on, and someone came up to me three times,” explained Jemison.”I never saw any of [Sossong’s] supporters leave. In fact, when I was going to go vote, many of his supporters were there and one was looking at my ballot and said ‘ugh, Charmaine’s voting for Renold.’ I guess it was mocking me, I don’t know what it was doing, but I thought nobody was supposed to be around there but Executive Board.”
Boggs also stated that many of Sossong’s supporters were “not wearing t-shirts.”
In terms of a solution, Winters explained that the elections will soon be taking place online.
“Every election this issue is brought up, but we will be implementing online voting next spring to aid in fixing the problem. Voting will be open for 3 days to every student.”
When told of this, Boggs seemed impressed, yet still, the news was not settling.
“It is a positive step in the right direction. I just wish that it would have been that way for when I wanted to run for election,” he said.