The Student Government Association (SGA) Legislature voted to pass Resolution 55sl05, invoking the line of succession instead of holding another presidential election in a 11-3-1 vote during an emergency meeting on April 18. Vice president-elect Noah Marchuck (24C), who abstained himself from voting, was officially sworn in as SGA president after the meeting.
“This was emotionally draining for me, but I cannot be more thrilled with the outcome,” Marchuck told the Wheel. Marchuck went on to express his confidence in the incoming executive board, stating “I’m just really excited to finally get started.”
The decision was made through anonymous voting to prevent SGA members from influencing each others’ votes. First year legislators, second year legislators, the Oxford continuee legislator, the fourth year legislator, Emory Student Nurses Association representatives, BBA council representatives and Oxford liaisons wrote their choice on a slip of paper, which were counted and displayed on an overhead screen by Speaker of the Legislator and former SGA Presidential Candidate Alyssa Stegall (21Ox, 23C), who was re-elected as Speaker during the April 18 meeting.
Marchuck voiced his support for anonymous voting.
“As someone who is assuming a role he didn’t run for and who has also received blackmail from multiple people in this room, as well as death threats from people in this room, I am not comfortable doing a roll call vote and I don’t want my friends to have to do that as well,” Marchuck said.
The emergency meeting was held after the Constitutional Council stated in its Friese v. SGA decision that the SGA presidential run-off election was constitutional, but the Legislature had the option to hold another election during the spring semester. The Constitutional Council ordered the Legislature to come to a verdict regarding whether to hold an election and announce their decision to the student body.
The meeting included two separate debates, the first in which members of the legislative and executive branch could participate and the second which was restricted to legislators in SGA. For the first debate, non-SGA members were also allowed to comment; however, Stegall noted that priority would be given to SGA members. Members of SGA could yield their time to others. During the debates, they discussed their views on following the line of succession or holding another election.
Khegan Meyers (24B), who was also elected as the ranking member of the 56th Legislature in the latter part of the meeting, said that although there are issues with SGA’s governing documents that he would like to see changed in the future, he did not support holding another election.
“The rules are as they are, and it’s not fair to change the rules in the middle of a system,” Meyers said.
First Year Legislator Corinne Phillips (25C) voted in favor of holding another election. She told the Wheel her vote was motivated by the fact that students are dissatisfied with SGA, so she felt having another election would ensure they feel more represented. However, she added that she has “no doubt” that Marchuck is “capable and passionate” about the upcoming work.
“Although the vote didn’t go my way, obviously, I think that SGA is in really good hands, especially with the 56th that was just sworn in tonight,” Phillips said. “I’m very hopeful for the next year and I hope that we continue to uplift and listen to the student voices rather than just uphold the status quo.”
Former SGA Presidential Candidate Eleanor Liu (21Ox, 23B) said she stood by the succession clause, noting that she followed the line of succession when the Oxford SGA presidential seat was left vacant by a win of “no confidence” during the spring 2021 election.
“I stand by the idea that we should invoke the line of succession because the people have spoken and said ‘no confidence,’” Liu said. “In fact, that vote of ‘no confidence’ is a vote against Alyssa and I.”
Emma Friese (24C), who argued that SGA governing documents do not contain proper procedure regarding a “no confidence” win in an SGA presidential election during the Friese v. SGA hearing on April 11, directly refuted Liu’s claim.
“A ‘no confidence’ vote was against the election system entirely and the fact that it’s full of ambiguities and that it’s in need of reform,” Friese said.
Friese submitted the challenge to the Constitutional Council with Sruti Kumar (20Ox, 22C), whom she met while working on former SGA Presidential Candidate Elisabet Ortiz’s (24C) campaign. Ortiz called on the student body to vote “no confidence” after she was disqualified due to her enrollment status as a gap-year student. She later dropped out of the race.
At the SGA meeting, Ortiz said that she has heard many people say a vote of “no confidence” means nothing. However, she explained that, in the context of “discriminatory policies,” voting “no confidence” was a way for students to demand immediate change. Ortiz also supported a new election.
“I’ve spoken to many disenfranchised students, who normally would not even have an interest in SGA because they don’t feel represented by it, saying that if there’s a new election, they will run,” Ortiz said. “I think that’s very indicative of what ‘no confidence’ has meant especially for marginalized and at-risk students.”
Despite Ortiz’s sentiments, SGA Attorney General Stewart Zelnick (20Ox, 22C) was a strong advocate for invoking the line of succession. He explained that the SGA should consider equity, precedent and student representation when making decisions, which he believes can be achieved by following the succession protocol. Doing so, he argued, would indicate that SGA is listening to students who voted “no confidence.”
Zelnick also said he had “no intention of blatantly operating outside of the governing documents” by holding another election following the challenge alleging unclear procedures in and unfair interpretations of the documents.
“That seems very contradictory to me,” Zelick said. “The reforms that are taking place, or going to take place, have already been discussed.”
Zelnick went on to refute a claim by Elijah Robuck (25C), who voted “no confidence” and supported holding a new election. Robuck said that while the student body elected Marchuck for vice president, they did not choose for him to fill the role of president, so appointing Marchuck would damage the “already eroding” trust of the student body.
“I understand it’s a time constraint and I understand that that would be a lot of work for you guys, but I think you’re going to look pretty bad to the student body if you just choose to appoint someone who wasn’t elected for that position,” Robuck said.
In response, Zelnick said that Marchuck was not being appointed, because one executive figure is not making the decision, so holding a new election would be “blatantly disrespectful” to the power of the legislature and the students who voted “no confidence.”
“There is no appointment happening,” Zelnick said. “In fact, there’s no one picking Noah for the presidential position other than the student body themselves.”
Second Year Legislature Becky Schwartz (24C), who voted for holding another election, also questioned Marchuck about whether or not anybody in support of “no confidence” received a position on his executive board. Marchuck, who had previously said only a few people in support of “no confidence” applied to be part of his executive board, responded, saying he did not choose either candidate.
Marchuck explained that one person was not chosen because of their lack of executive experience, while the other was a competitive candidate who was not chosen after almost an hour of deliberation.
Although Marchuck was not officially sworn in as president until April 18, he said he has already been working with SGA and has met with the Governing Documents Committee and Election Board. Marchuck said he wants to make change happen and encouraged others to join SGA if they want to have a say.
“We’re running out of time to make any sort of change,” Marchuck said. “So if you want something to happen, talk to me.”