SGA updates election rules after complications in the 2021 election


Photo by Shelby Clark

Erika Uebelhor, Student Government Associate attorney general, presents to the General Assembly Feb. 10 on Zoom her motion to update the president and vice-president candidate requirements.

Shelby Clark, Editor-in-Chief

The Student Government Association unanimously voted to update the language for vice-president and president candidate requirements during the Zoom General Assembly Feb. 10. The update came as a response to a disqualification for last year’s election due to the ambiguity of what serving on SGA means.

SGA originally updated their candidate requirements for vice-president and president Sept. 24, 2020. The update required that the candidate “served as a member of the Student Government Association for at least two semesters at the time of candidacy,” according to SGA bylaws.

“For those of you who don’t know, we had some complications where our constitution says any student at USI is a member of SGA,” said Erika Uebelhor, SGA attorney general, at the General Assembly Feb. 10

Uebelhor made the motion Feb. 10 to update the vice-president and president candidate requirements in the SGA bylaws from requiring to be “a member of” SGA for two semesters to “must have served in an elected or appointed position of the Student Government Association for at least two (2) semesters at the time of candidacy,” according to the SGA resolution.

Anna Ardelean, SGA president, said when the requirement was written in Fall 2020, the intention was for the president and vice-president to be in an elected and appointed position for two or more semesters. “Then when the election came around, there was a bit of a scandal, and it was up for interpretation a little bit on what being in SGA meant.” 

Trent Thompson, a senior marketing major and president of the College of Republicans, tried to run for 2021-2022 SGA president in March 2020 but was not allowed to run because the SGA election committee said he had not been a member of SGA for two semesters. 

Thompson said he was unjustly disqualified from running because he regularly attended meetings and the SGA constitution reads, “All students, by virtue of their registration at the University of Southern Indiana, shall be members of the SGA.” 

Uebelhor was attorney general during the 2020-2021 academic year and wrote the original language requiring the candidate to be “a member of” SGA for two semesters. 

Uebelhor said the intention for this update was that the candidate be in an elected or appointed position. “It just wasn’t executed well, and I take full responsibility for that.” 

“I was the one who was not specific enough in the first place,” Uebelhor said. “Truly, the intention is just to make sure that we have leaders who are very aware of the organization and how it runs.” 

Ardelean said the update to the language is “not really changing the rules, just kind of specifying something that last year’s General Assembly decided on.” 

Thompson said, “The elected and appointed things – that is what they meant last year when they wrote it, but again, that’s not what they wrote. That was my argument.”

He said if SGA wanted the president position to be filled by someone who had been elected or appointed to a position, they should have written it that way “from the get-go.”

“They still denied me the ability to run though, despite it being wrong,” Thompson said. “And then this now admitting they were wrong, and they’re fixing that error. I find that unprofessional and shouldn’t have happened that way.” 

Thompson said there is merit to the requirement as he added a general membership requirement, or attendance at two or more meetings, to be president of the College of Republicans. He said he thinks requiring president and vice-president candidates to be in an elected or appointed position for two semesters before being allowed to run is still wrong because it limits the number of people who can apply.

“If someone wants to run for this position, I think they should be able to,” Thompson said. “I think we should really be able to have almost a free election.” 

Ardelean said she was originally against the two semester requirement in Fall 2020 because she did not want to limit the number of people that would be eligible to run. She said she did not find out that Thompson was denied the opportunity to run until well after the election because she was a candidate.

After being SGA president for almost a year, Ardelean said she could not have fulfilled her position without the prior knowledge she gained from being in a position for two semesters.

“We want students to run. We want students to feel empowered to run, but also for those two positions, it’s a functional thing,” Ardelean said. “It’s not trying to be exclusive or anything. It’s not, it’s not a scandal.” 

The president of the United States has qualifications, like age, for good reason, she said. “Even if it excludes some people, it’s for the best.” 

The requirement is not specific about the two semesters being consecutive, Ardelean said. She said this means students who have held elected or appointed SGA positions for two nonconsecutive semesters and meet the other requirements can run for president and vice-president. 

Ardelean said, “We try to have safe and secure elections as much as possible.”