We wrote last week about the troubling efforts of several top members of the Missouri Students Association to ignore a violation in their bylaws. The Senate confirmed MSA Budget Committee chairwoman Shelby Catalano to a vice-chairman position on the Board of Elections Commissioners (an independent entity of MSA tasked with running and certifying its elections), despite a clear prohibition in chapter 8.10B2 on vice chairmen “holding simultaneous offices within the association.” We expressed optimism that between Senate Speaker Mckenzie Morris, Operations Committee Chairman Ben Bolin, the MSA Student Court and Catalano herself, someone would do the right thing and find a suitable replacement for the vice chairman position.
This didn’t happen. Things were only made worse.
On Sept. 6, the MSA Student Court made not a ruling on Catalano’s eligibility but a series of “recommendations” for the full Senate to consider. The court asked the Senate to address what the term “office” actually means, to re-examine chapter 9 of the bylaws, in which a list of MSA “offices” does not include Board of Elections Commissioners positions and to define where the board stands in relation to MSA.
The court justified this lack of an actual decision on the case by labeling it an “informal” request made via email. There’s nothing in the bylaws that defines how cases should be brought up or what constitutes a legitimate case to consider. There’s nothing about how the court should treat cases regarding MSA Senate as a whole violating its own bylaws, either. This idea of a “formal process” was simply invented last week to invalidate the “informal” case of Catalano’s eligibility. Perhaps this was out of an aversion to conflict — an unwillingness to be tough on your own friends.
After the court’s odd “ruling,” Bolin decided that since the list of “offices” in chapter 9 of the bylaws leaves out board vice chairmen (and the board chairman), Catalano could remain in both offices — wait, sorry, “positions” — without it technically being a violation of the rules. He argued that typically the term “office” is used to describe a paid position and/or someone with a “physical office.” Since budget cuts forced MSA to make the board vice chairmen positions unpaid beginning this year, the position no longer has either of those qualifications; therefore, everything’s cool!
This line of thinking neglects the obvious implications of the bylaw that was originally violated: Why would the description of the board vice chairmen positions include a clause prohibiting the occupant from holding “simultaneous offices” if the position itself is not considered an “office?”
Two years ago, former Senate Speaker Jake Sloan was also the board chairman (which, of course, was and remains a paid position). Some within MSA have claimed the current bylaw violation is merely following a previously established precedent. Continuing a bad precedent, though, is just as bad as creating a new one, especially when the organization extends itself to bend the rules like it has with this current situation. Is MSA so uninterested in following its own rules that it will make up bullshit “loopholes” and argue down the definition of the word “office” rather than simply fixing the violation?
To us, the omission of board positions in the list of “offices” in chapter 9 is a clear oversight. Those positions are offices, plain and simple. There should be no arguments, no truth-bending, no equivocation.
This has become an alarming and wholly inappropriate response to a relatively innocuous mistake. When you have millions of dollars at your fingertips, as MSA does, it’s crucial that you follow the rules set by your predecessors. If you don’t, you are letting your constituents down. The embarrassing and confusing attempts of MSA officers to ignore, bypass and change the rules have no place in an organization intended to represent the student body.
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