By: Julie Pike, Editor-in-chief
Current Student Body President, Chase Hewitt, attempted to veto a recent proposal, number 46.23, that was voted upon by the Student Senate. The proposal in question would allow for the Student Senate and the Student Government Association (SGA) to move their finances from their own separate business office, to the USM business office.
Hewitt’s concerns of this proposal arose from the short length of the document, which is approximately a half page, and how Student Senators were told they could not abstain from voting on this proposal, to which Hewitt has done research to find that it was against protocol.
Trevor Hustus, Chair of the Student Senate, explained that with this proposal the Student Senate is trying to move all of their finance accounts to under the umbrella of the university, which would save them approximately $20,000 a year. Under this new system, the Student Senate, the SGA and all of its entities would be using the same software program. All the finances would move to being online on MaineStreet.
The process of creating this proposal, Hustus stated, began a year and a half ago when Humza Khan was Student Body President. Khan worked with multiple USM administrators to discuss how the Student Senate’s and the SGA’s finances were set up.
Once he came into the role as Chair, Hustus continued to work on the proposal. He worked alongside Nancy Griffin, Vice President of Enrollment Management & Student Affairs, and Buster Neel, Interim Chief Financial Officer, as well as Justin Swift, USM Financial Manager, and Rodney Mondor, Dean of Students.
“If for some reason the Student Senate or SGA is sued, the university is not technically supposed to be providing legal council for them,” Hustus stated. “Moving to the system that we passed recently, we will have the entire army of lawyers and university employees to protect us from litigation.”
After the Student Senate meeting on March 23, where this proposal was voted on, Hewitt worked on drafting a proposal to veto it. He stated that he did not want to rush into submitting a veto and he wanted to consider what all of the options were.
Hewitt said that the proposal was too short and too ambiguous and disagreed with the Senate’s vote to disband themselves as a 501(c)(3) organization, which would connect their finances to the university. He sent in a formal proposal to veto, but learned soon after that he had missed the deadline to do so.
As Student Body President, Hewitt cannot vote on Student Senate proposals, but he does have the power to veto them. However, the veto submission has to be sent in within seven days after the vote to go into effect.
Since Hewitt did still submit the veto, the Student Senate will be addressing it at their next meeting. He has asked for an emergency meeting to discuss the matter of his veto and to express his concerns to the Student Senate. A tentative date for this is set for Thursday, April 12.
One of the main concerns that Hewitt addresses in his veto is that Senators were told that they could not abstain from the vote by the Parliamentarian, Tyler Soucy. In response, Hewitt looked through the Student Senate Constitution, Robert’s Rules of Order, a guidebook for parliamentary procedures that the Student Senate bases their meetings on, and USM’s shared Governance Constitution. In these documents, Hewitt found nothing that explained an instance where voters could not abstain.
Under Article Eight of Robert’s Rules of Order Online, in regards to abstaining from voting it states, “While it is the duty of every member who has an opinion on the question to express it by his vote, yet he cannot be compelled to do so. He may prefer to abstain from voting, though he knows the effect is the same as if he voted on the prevailing side.”
Hustus stated that there were three or four Senators he believed were planning on abstaining, out of the 15 current members. Some wanted to abstain because they did not completely understand the proposal.
“People weren’t really asking questions so I didn’t know what they didn’t understand, and I couldn’t explain it more to them,” Hustus stated.
On this proposal that was voted on, three signatures are listed at the bottom, including the Student Body President, Chair of the Senate, and the President of USM. So far two of the three signatures have been completed, but Hewitt refuses to sign. However, Hustus stated that President Cummings and himself are the only ones who actually need to sign the proposal.
“I put Chase’s name on there to have him sign just to make things more clean, so everybody feels like they’re being heard,” Hustus stated. “However, I definitely hear his concerns about some of the lack of understanding amongst some Senators, and I want to make sure that everybody is on the same page.”
In planning this proposal, Hustus conversed with other schools in the University of Maine System that had a similar set-up. Representatives from the University of Maine Farmington and University of Maine Machias informed Hustus that they had no concerns with their current system. Hustus stated that five out of the seven University of Maine schools have the same system that the Student Senate is in the process of moving to.
Moving forward with his concerns about the proposal, Hewitt will be addressing the Student Senate directly.
“My goal is to keep the conversation going, to encourage everyone in the Student Senate, the SGA, and all of its entities, to encourage them to keep talking about it. I want this to happen in a way where we are all on the same page and we all know what the outcome will be,” Hewitt stated.