The Coon Rapids student senate has a pattern of choosing its own leadership without turning it over to the student body.
Tracie Clyne, Editor.
This story was originally published as part of The Campus Eye’s 2017 Fall Print Edition.
“How I got elected shouldn’t be how people are elected,” the current president of the Coon Rapids student senate, Rachel Bray, said. Members of student senate chose Bray as president on Aug. 31 after the student body elected Elijah Muhammed to represent them.
Student Senate removed Muhammed from his position due to his GPA, which fell below the 2.0 requirement. The student senate also removed Javiv Anglo as vice president-elect because he behaved unethically during a student senate conference. Nick Gertner replaced Anglo in August.
The election process
Each spring semester student senate holds an election for the student body to vote on who will be the Senate’s president and vice president. If anyone elected onto student senate is removed or resigns “a special mid-year election is required,” according to the student senate constitution. If someone resigns or is removed over a semester break, which has happened twice in the last three years, then the following semester “a special election for the vacant position shall take place during the second official [student senate] meeting.”
The constitution does not specify who votes in special elections. In the past three years, members of the Senate have chosen the replacement president and vice president rather than holding a student body election.
“That’s how our bylaws work, but that’s what I’m personally trying to change because I think it should always fall back to the students, no matter what,” Bray said. The Senate wants to change the constitution so that when cases like this happen the vote will go back to the students, according to Bray.
“I am a firm believer that the process we followed for me is unacceptable. I shouldn’t be in the position I am in. [The vote] should have gone back to the students,” Bray said. According to Bray, she was the only student interested in the position and wants the Senate to work more to promote their election next semester.
A familiar pattern
This isn’t the first time that leaders elected by the student body have not fulfilled or served their term. “I know about the pattern, but I’m trying to break that pattern. We are actually changing our constitution to try to fix how some of the elections went, right now,” said Bray.
A similar situation happened in 2015 when then President-elect Anis Abushagor and Vice President-elect Andrew Schmidtz resigned over the summer. Abushagor resigned because he was overwhelmed with juggling his classes and job. Schmitz resigned because he was a PSEO student and was not continuing the program the following year. Student Senate held a special election during its first meeting of the fall 2015 semester. Members chose Becca Larson and Conner Swigart to be the replacement president and vice president.
Student Senate chose Larson as president for a second year in 2016 but she resigned before her term was over. Larson forged her original election documents so she was listed as an “interim” president which would have allowed her to run for the third time. The student senate bylaws state that no member can serve for more than two full years. Anna Ewing, the vice president at the time stepped up as president for the rest of the school year.
Voter turnout and promotion
“There is low voter turn-out,” Bray said. The total voter turnout for the 2017 election was 135 students. Roughly 6,000 students attended the Coon Rapids campus in the spring semester of 2017, according to institutional data. That means only 2.25% of students voted in the spring election.
“We do everything we can. Emails, posters, we send it to PR to put it on the TV monitors, social media. Elections are before April, so we begin advertising in late February or early March,” Joyce Traczyk, advisor of the Student Senate, said about advertising for students to vote.
The Campus Eye staff did a basic search of their school email and found no history of Traczyk, student life, or student senate announcing student elections or running for office.
Traczyk said that the Senate advertises for students to run for office the same way they do for the actual elections.
“That’s how we did it last year. And we will continue doing it this year. It is in our constitution. I don’t know specifics about advertising, and they are actually revamping our constitution,” Traczyk said.
Bray said that Senate has a difficult time finding people to run for office and Senate plans on doing more advertising this year than previous years.
“You don’t think the students are being heard because how the election process works if the people who you elect [are] suddenly out of office,” said Bray. Bray and Gertner plan to remain president and vice president for the rest of the 2017-2018 academic year.