MSA Operations confirms three justices, one associate chief

Three new justices and the associate justice hope the new court can increase involvement with senate.

The Missouri Students Association Senate Operations Committee sat in suspense as they debated the confirmation of sophomore Landen Smith as associate chief justice. In a narrow vote of 3-2, Smith, along with three other justices, was confirmed in the Sept. 29 meeting.

The other three justices — Tricia Swartz, Allison Boyajian and Derek Van Becelaere — were confirmed unanimously. Janessa Riehle was also nominated for justice, but the committee denied her confirmation.

Explaining the reason for the narrow vote for Smith’s confirmation, Operations Committee member Saad Malik said the committee thought he felt “entitled to” become chief justice after gaining the associate chief position.

Smith said this was due to a misunderstanding on his part.

“I was under the wrong understanding of how succession works, so I’m not surprised,” he said. “My answers would have been different. I am not going into this position expecting to be the chief justice.”

Smith double majors in biological science and classics. He said he is looking forward to learning more from Chief Justice Whitney Barr.

“Being an associate chief justice gives me an opportunity to (receive) direct tutelage from Whitney,” he said. “I get to see how she operates as the chief justice and how she goes through decision-making and taking charge.”

Swartz, a freshman majoring in political science, said she saw the student court as a way to gain leadership experience as well as practice for her future career goals.

“I hope to go to law school someday, and to hopefully become a judge, so I thought that being on the student court would hopefully give me experience I could use later in life,” Swartz said.

Smith is also involved in several other activities, including Political Science Club, the Christian ministry group Chi Alpha and the Jefferson Book Club. She said that maintaining her responsibilities and schoolwork “will require some balancing,” but she is confident she will be able to handle the workload.

Freshman Boyajian is majoring in hospitality management. She said she was looking for a way to get involved and started researching MSA and all of its branches. She was her high school’s student body president, but Boyajin said that she wanted to “step outside of her comfort zone” and be active in the judicial branch.

She said she wants to learn different leadership styles from other justices as well as expand her knowledge about what it means to be a judge.

“It is important to know what is right and to follow it,” Boyajian said. “So if there can be someone helping another person to make the right decision that can be really powerful and really meaningful.”

Boyajian is also involved with Alpha Chi Omega and the Emerging Leaders Program. She said she is using ELP and MSA as stepping stones to get more involved on campus.

“If every student could be as active as the next, then our school could be much more powerful than it already is,” Boyajian said. “No matter what you get involved in, it is important to find your niche and try to make a difference in that sector of it, because overall it creates an amazing environment to be in.”

As a history major, Van Becelaere said he is required to do a lot of readings, make arguments and generate analysis in his classes, which he said will help him in his role. He said he wants to give back to the school and help out other students.

“I would like at some point to leave a mark on the school and be responsible for making it better,” Van Becelaere said.

Van Becelaere said he applied to be a justice because he wants to be involved with student government before heading to law school. During his time as a justice, Van Becelaere said he hopes to bring some power back to the court.

“I hope to get the court more involved with other parts of government,” Van Becelaere said.

Smith said one of the court’s goals this year is to become more involved with Senate. He and Barr have discussed having one member of the court attend each Senate meeting as a way to bring about this change.

“We’ve kind of been a back lane part of MSA,” he said. “Us being more (involved) means more people making important decisions, helping everybody to have a sense of unity so that we’re all acting (with) the same goals.”

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