In an election necessitated by the removal of the previous student body president, Adam Higgins, a junior economics major, was appointed to the position by a majority vote of the student senate on Friday.
The decision comes one week after the former president, TJ Williams, was removed from office by the senate for failure to fulfill his duties. Williams had been absent from USM since the first week of classes in September.
Higgins, a student senator himself, was chosen by secret ballot from a group of five candidates who were nominated throughout the week. In addition to being constitutionally unable to serve on the senate any longer, Higgins will have to step down as president of the Political Science Student Organization, a position he has held since September.
However, he has no qualms about this.
“I’m ready. Ready to get things done. There are a lot of plans on the table that university personnel have been working on for years. It’s time to enact those plans. The [University President Theo Kalikow] is supportive of action, and it’s time that we work to get things done.”
Higgins is the first non-traditional student to ever hold the position, which Portland Director of Student Life, Chris O’Connor, typically defines as a student outside the 18-24 year-old range.
Higgins attended USM as a traditional student for three semesters from spring 1998 to 1999 and returned in summer 2011 to complete his degree. Since then, he has fulfilled the requirements for a bachelors in political science and has decided to complete a second degree in economics.
The election closes the book on an unprecedented and uncertain period for the Student Government Association that raised many concerns over the process for dealing with delinquency in such an important office. No student body president has ever been removed by the senate in such a manner, and the SGA constitution does not prescribe a specific method for replacing the president.
O’Connor, who is also staff adviser to the senate, was impressed with the senate’s handling of the situation.
“I think they managed it really professionally,” O’Connor said. “It was the most thorough vetting or exploration of candidates that I’ve seen, even through a normal election process. They realized the impact of having a hole in that position and took action to do something about it.”
Changes to the SGA constitution have been proposed to prevent any future confusion over the issue. Senator Andrew Kalloch, in a statement to The Free Press explains, “The amendment will address the process that should be used by any future student senates should they ever have to appoint a new president.”
All five candidates had previous SGA experience. Three sitting senators, Higgins, Isaak Misiuik and Ciarra Pickens were nominated as well as former senator Fatima Al-Freihy and former senate chair Alison Parker. This level of involvement in student government, and competition among candidates, is a departure from last semester when former president Williams ran unopposed.
Williams has not returned any requests from The Free Press for comment and his absence from USM remains unexplained.
Camire is confident with the senate’s choice. “I think Adam is going to be a great student body president. He has the tools, talent, skills and charisma to do the job well.”
Higgins will be available at 3V Day at Sullivan Gym on Wednesday from 11-2 p.m. to meet with any students interested in talking to him.