Breaking the rules then ignoring the rules defeats the purpose of having rules — particularly when your job is to ensure the rules are being followed.
During an Aug. 28 session of the Missouri Students Association Senate, the body unanimously confirmed MSA Budget Committee chairwoman Shelby Catalano as one of two vice-chairmen for the Board of Elections Commissioners, a day after she and junior Derek Chung were confirmed (also unanimously) by the MSA Operations Committee. This was, we published and continue to believe, in clear violation of MSA bylaws. Chapter 8.10B2 states the vice chairmen “may not hold simultaneous offices within the association.”
The rule is in place with good reason. The board is an “independent entity of the association” (8.10) which governs and certifies MSA elections. While Catalano’s confirmation may not be part of a nefarious plot to hold an illegitimate election, it’s poor precedent to appoint officers, particularly such high-ranking ones, to the board cabinet.
And, of course, it’s the rules.
The MSA Operations Committee, in theory, knows about the rules. Its purpose is to oversee “the successful fulfillment of the duties and responsibilities of the association” (2.60), which, of course, involves making sure the rules are being followed. The committee’s unanimous Aug. 27 confirmation of Catalano, then, is a little worrisome. Was no one on the committee aware of the rule prohibiting MSA officers from being appointed to the position? If one or more members were aware of it, why didn’t they speak up?
With the expanding role of the committee (beginning last semester, members have been sitting in on other committees’ meetings and promoting liaisons with other student organizations), it’s crucial that it continues to hold the entire association to its own bylaws. The committee wrongfully confirming Catalano without a hitch makes us nervous that it may not be holding itself to as strong of a standard as the student body deserves.
In addition, the board is considering implementing a series of major changes to elections this year, including shortening the presidential election campaign from seven to three weeks. How can they carry out such an ambitious slate of reforms to the election process when they are unaware and dismissive of the rules governing the board’s very leaders?
Fortunately, MSA Senate Speaker Mckenzie Morris brought the issue before the MSA Judicial Court before Tuesday night’s committee meetings, and they are expected to rule on whether the confirmation is a violation soon. It’s a little disappointing that such a clear-cut case (in our view) requires such a process to resolve, especially when it involves defining what constitutes an “officer” (despite chapter 2.90 of the bylaws referring to all MSA senators as “legislative officers”). But we hope this mistake will be cleared in due time, and MSA can continue to strive for efficiency and accountability. Because when that happens, MU students can only benefit.
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