SGA reveals it mishandled year and a half’s worth of resolutions

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Over a year and a half’s worth of Student Governing Association resolutions have not been sent to their intended recipients, a student senate inquiry revealed.

It was not immediately clear how extensive the failure to send the resolutions was, but Jonathan Peuchen, speaker of the senate and senior in mechanical engineering, said the senate is “pretty confident” that resolutions on various topics in the past year and a half — such as resolutions on transgender rights, campaign rights in university residence halls and career center policies — were not sent.

Jordan Kiehl, chief of staff and senior in industrial engineering, said the responsibility for sending the resolutions used to fall under a staffer inside the senate’s office.

“About a year and a half ago, this was switched, but SGA was not aware,” Kiehl said. “There is a lot of turnover in SGA and a lot of moving pieces, so I can see where that would be lost since it wasn’t explicitly said under any position, and we were still under the impression that the office did it.”

A preliminary review of SGA’s constitution — which lists the responsibilities of the president, speaker of the senate and speaker pro tempore, among others — failed to find the responsibility of sending resolutions under any of the positions, although the constitution was unavailable online Thursday evening for confirmation.

“As a student senator, as someone who has written legislation in the past, it’s frustrating to hear that those things are not delivered to the recipients,” said Ryan Kelly, student senator and sophomore in civil engineering and communications. “Above all else, it highlights that we need to be intentional in our outrage.”

Jack Ayres, student body president and senior in chemical engineering, said neither he nor any other SGA members were made aware of the changes. Ayres was the speaker of the senate during the time period of the switch.

“Let me be very clear here, student leaders were not made aware, as far as I’m concerned,” Ayres said. “That was not a part of our transition material.

“It’s oversight,” Ayres continued. “It’s kind of a collective fault when it comes down to it. I want to make sure I own that mistake. I should’ve — the speaker last year should’ve — done a better job of going in and making sure that everyone was doing the right thing, that everybody was making sure that those were getting sent.”

Resolutions are the formal manner in which the senate states its stance or opinion on a given subject, in contrast with legislation, which enacts rules, regulations or allocates funding. However, the senate typically undergoes its most contentious debate during resolutions, as the resolutions assert opinions on controversial matters.

“For me, the point of a resolution is to provide clarity on where the student senate stands on an issue,” Kelly said. “I don’t think there has been an impact. The reason why I write resolutions is to make student groups, to make administrators, to make any faculty and staff aware of where we stand and what we think and feel. … In essence, the lack of communication puts us on the side of the oppressor.”

Another less controversial type of resolutions are commendations, which formally congratulate notable members of the K-State community on accomplishments or milestones. The inquiry revealed the recipients of these commendations never received formal notice of them.

“That’s what I think is the biggest loss in all this,” Ayres said. “We’ve commended a lot of people for a lot of incredible things that they’ve done, and they haven’t gotten an official commendation. It makes me sad.”

Ayres said despite the fact the resolutions were not sent, he has taken the resolutions with him to meetings with President Richard Myers, the Kansas Board of Regents and meetings in Washington, D.C.

“The resolutions, although they [were] not being sent appropriately, were still utilized,” Ayres said. “I want that to be clear.”

The issue was first discovered at a Governmental Relations Committee meeting discussing the senate’s resolution in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals students. A new committee member asked who was responsible for sending the resolutions to their intended recipients, said Stephen Kucera, student support director and graduate student in accounting. Kucera followed up with Peuchen and SGA adviser Bill Harlan, which is when Kucera said “the story started writing itself.”

“It was clear there was a significant breakdown in communication and that important resolutions from the student senate were not being distributed — commendations to students on their accomplishments or policy changes students were advocating for,” Kucera said.

Kucera said he had never heard of the change in resolution sending procedures over his five-year senate career.

“There was no communication of the process to at least the majority of SGA members, and if anyone knew of the change, it was definitely not passed on from year to year,” Kucera said.

Initially, some members of the senate thought it would be best to “keep quiet on this broken process,” Kucera said. The Collegian was first made aware of the issue by an insider source who requested their name be left off the record. The Collegian followed up with senate leaders, including Peuchen and Ayres, who said they wanted to be as transparent about the issue as possible.

“We immediately started thinking about, ‘OK, we have to figure out something to fix this because this is not a good deal,'” Peuchen said. “We have to figure out something that works.

“We weren’t too keen on the authors sending them all on their [own] initiative, because that’s kind of tough,” Peuchen continued. “We figured if we could set up some system, then maybe we could be certain it would get done.”

Moving forward, the senate will create a process in which the author of the bill creates a mailing list of intended recipients and writes a cover letter for their resolutions, after which the speaker pro tempore will be responsible for printing and sending the resolutions and cover letters by mail, Peuchen said in a director’s report during the senate’s weekly meeting Thursday evening.

However, no specific legislation amending the senate’s constitution or by-laws was introduced at the meeting. Peuchen said the senate would likely have to change the senate’s standing rules, although he was not sure what that legislation would look like.

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I’m Rafael Garcia, co-editor-in-chief at the Collegian. I’m a junior in journalism, campus visit coordinator for the JMC Ambassadors, and the vice president of social events and communication for the Edgerley-Franklin Urban Leaders. I come from Emporia, Kansas, home of the Twinkie, world’s best tasting tap water and journalist William Allen White. I’m passionate about journalism because I love people and their stories, and I want to find and tell those stories here on campus. In my spare time, I’m a Chihuahua wrangler, doughnut enthusiast, Netflix watcher and racquetball player. Contact me at [email protected]