By Kristen Fedor, Daily Staff Reporter
Published March 19, 2014
Early Wednesday morning, the Central Student Judiciary released an official ruling stating the Engineering Council, the student government for the College of Engineering, violated its own constitution and bylaws by improperly conducting its December election.
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CSJ ordered the current UMEC Executive Board members to step down and be replaced by interim officers at the authority of the UMEC General Council. Permanent Executive Board members will be decided in the upcoming elections to take place at the same time as the winter Central Student Government elections.
Engineering graduate student Kyle Lady, the Eta Kappa Nu representative for UMEC, and Engineering senior Kelsey Hockstad, an officer of Tau Beta Pi, filed the suit against UMEC for alleged undemocratic behavior earlier this month. Engineering graduate student Michael Benson served as counsel for the petitioners.
Lady and Benson both said they were pleased with the CSJ decision.
“It definitely provides a mechanism to try and improve the student government for engineers,” Lady said.
Petitioners found a myriad of irregularities with the UMEC elections, which took place in December. According to Article IV of the UMEC Bylaws, results should have been released to the public by Dec. 9. The Michigan Daily reported on March 10 that they were given to the plantiffs in Janurary; however, they have not yet been released to the public.
Additionally, Rackham student Boying Liu received the presidential title, though he ran for the position of vice president. Engineering sophomore Selina Thompson ran for director of administration yet was seated as vice president. Engineering sophomore Anna Shrestinian did not appear on the ballot, but was seated as director of administration.
The Michigan Daily reported that Engineering senior Kenneth Mull, the former vice president of UMEC, said in a Jan. 22 e-mail to Lady, one of the plantiffs, that Engineering sophomore Diego Calvo, won the election but withdrew over winter break.
This could have validated Liu's assumption of the presidential seat; however, it would violate Article III of the UMEC Constitution. In the event of a vacated seat, according to Article III, the Executive Board should appoint an interim officer to be approved by a vote of the General Council. UMEC did not make any such motion following Calvo’s resignation. The alleged vacancy of the seat is still unclear, as Calvo was not yet sworn in as president when he resigned.
Petitioners argued that the UMEC constitution is in violation of the all-campus Constitution articles regarding equal protection and democratic representation. They claimed graduate students should not be involved in UMEC, as they do not pay dues for the College of Engineering student government.
CSJ ruled the UMEC constitution is not in violation of the All Campus Constitution. According to the official opinion, CSJ said graduate students are entitled to representation in UMEC as they are covered by the College of Engineering. However, graduate representation should remain less significant than that of undergraduates.
Engineering graduate student Boying Liu was appointed president of UMEC in the December elections. This is a violation of Article III of the UMEC constitution, which declares that an executive officer must be enrolled in the College of Engineering. Though an engineering graduating student, Liu is technically enrolled in Rackham, not the College of Engineering.
Liu, in addition to the other officers, was appointed in an invalid election according to CSJ. According to Article III of the UMEC constitution, UMEC elections should be held in conjunction with CSG elections in November. For unclear reasons, UMEC elections did not take place until December. Additionally, information regarding candidates has a deadline of being released at least two weeks prior to the election according to Article III. This information was released to prospective candidates on Dec. 3, only two days before the Dec. 5 elections.
CSJ also ruled the appointment of executive board members at the Jan. 22 UMEC meeting was an “egregious use of illicit power.” Engineering graduate student Christine Zuchora, the outgoing UMEC president, elevated members to specific offices to which they were not elected.
Benson said the removal of the current Executive Board reflects more long-term problems within UMEC that he hopes to help fix.
“The current UMEC officers really were caught in the middle of things, and I was really pleased the court made very clear that they weren’t being held accountable,” he said. “The issues with UMEC have been long-standing.”
In a statement to The Michigan Daily, members of the executive board that must step down wrote they are happy UMEC can now move on from this case.
“We are looking forward to UMEC’s reinstatement so it can continue to support the College of Engineering student body and its student organizations,” they wrote.
While CSJ did not order a constitutional convention, both sides recognized at the hearing that they were open to reviewing inconsistencies between UMEC and All Campus constitutions.
Lady said changes to the UMEC constitution and bylaws are still needed.
“Whether it is or isn’t in violation of the all-campus Constitution, we’re going to go through the same process of reworking them to serve the students better,” he said.