January 24, 2020

SGA president sworn in amidst miscoummunication

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Katie Maxwell being sworn into the position of SGA president at the Jan. 21 meeting. PHOTO BY MEGAN FAVIGNANO/The Journal

In an SGA meeting Tuesday, Jan. 21, Katie Maxwell was sworn in as president of the Webster University Student Government Association (SGA). Former President Michael Grosch resigned from the organization at the end of the fall semester to study abroad at Webster’s Leiden campus, leaving Maxwell as acting president. In the days leading up to the meeting, SGA members were unsure how the position was going to be filled.

Chris Hawk, SGA sergeant of arms, said there was “major miscommunication” over filling Grosch’s seat. Prior to Jan. 21, Maxwell served as vice president alongside Grosch. He said Maxwell was only acting president in the time between Grosch’s resignation and Tuesday’s meeting. Hawk did not expect Maxwell to be sworn in because he believed a vote was required before she could officially take the position.

Hawk said his interpretation of the presidency process came from Article VI, Section 4 of the  SGA Constitution, which states “the SGA voting body shall vote on the presidential appointments to vacant positions and those temporarily open due to study abroad.”

Maxwell thought everyone knew she would be filling Grosch’s place.

“In our constitution, it dictates that if a president is unable to fulfill his role, then the vice president will stand in for him,” Maxwell said before Tuesday’s meeting. “I don’t know if it was necessarily crafted for study abroad purposes. Technically, it fits that requirement, so I’m going to be stepping in for Michael since he’s not here anymore.”

In regard to Article VI, Section 4, SGA Adviser Jennifer Stewart said she understands where the misinterpretation originated.

“This (article) is not people being appointed to the position of president — it’s appointments made by the president,” Stewart said. “So if a senator leaves, the president has the ability to appoint a person to that position that is then voted on by the general body.”

Article V, Section 2 of the SGA constitution states the vice president “shall perform the duties of the president in his/her absence.” At that point, the vice president is sworn in as president, Stewart said. Stewart said a lack of communication occurred when Stewart and Maxwell assumed SGA members were aware it would work that way.

This year marked the first time a president resigned in the middle of their term due to study abroad circumstances, Stewart said. There was never a conversation to clarify that Maxwell would be sworn in, but Stewart said the decision was implied.

“Every vice president is voted in with the understanding that they could be the president. I can tell you that’s not what we campaigned for,” Hawk said the day before the meeting. “The vice president takes over presidential duties (when a president leaves), but that does not, by default, make you the president.”

During the general body meeting, Maxwell sat in the president’s seat. At the start of the open floor discussion, Stewart swore in Maxwell, and her presidency was made official. There was no vote.

Hawk addressed the miscommunication issue at the SGA meeting. He said that it had been fixed in an Executive Board discussion earlier that day.

“The dissemination of communication at Webster University is relatively poor,” Hawk said. “I want to get rid of any levels of miscommunication and have more conversations internally, which we can then push externally as well, which is something that I think SGA should take the lead on.”

To achieve clarity, Hawk said there would be more one-on-one conversations within the organization. After the meeting, Hawk said he was happy with how things went and that he felt good about the semester.

Stewart believes Maxwell will be a good president and is fully capable of picking up where Grosch left off.

Maxwell is working on revisions to the constitution in an effort to prevent future miscommunication. According to Stewart, the SGA body plans to vote on these changes upon their completion. Hawk hopes there will be an updated version of the constitution by the end of the semester.

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