Senior Senate Seat Still Vacant

Two weeks ago, senior senator candidate Kyrra Nielson ran unopposed in the Senate elections held online on Blackboard. She was disqualified for not turning in a spending packet.

Associated Students of California Lutheran University Government has not found a new senior senator to fill the position.

The spending packet each candidate is required to turn in is part of the general elections packet found on the ASCLUG web page.

I don’t think she spent anything, but in the elections packet it outlines [that] even if you don’t spend anything, you still have to turn it in and indicate that it says no funds spent,” said ASCLU Senate  Director Alexis Ghattas.

Following her disqualification, Nielson appealed the election committee’s disqualification vote to the judicial board.

The judiciary board decided to uphold the election committee’s majority vote to disqualify Nielson. The majority vote was nine out of 17 active senate members in favor of disqualification.

Vice President for student affairs and Dean of Students Melinda Roper is the chair of the judicial board. When a student believes government action is contrary to the constitution, it is the responsibility of the ASCLU president to request a judicial hearing within 48 hours of the act in question, Roper said in an email interview.  The ASCLUG president notifies Roper and a judicial board hearing occurs within 10 days of the request, Roper said.

“We believed that because she signed a document and stated that she did, in fact, read the document saying her spending and elections packet were due by 5 p.m. that day to Mary Morrison, we decided to uphold the vote,” said Ryan Raymond, student member of the judiciary board.

As for the arguments Nielson presented during the appeals process, she claimed that because she was the only one running and did not spend any money on the campaign, she thought she would not have to turn in her spending packet, Raymond said.

Ghattas said Nielson’s appeal process took “about a week” and depends on “the people that are on the board and how their schedules match up.”

“Obviously, as soon as possible is the best option because we want that Senator, or whoever, to mesh with the group as soon as possible and get integrated in the board,” Ghattas said.

Ghattas has had the ability to appoint anyone to the open Senate position as of Oct. 1. Ghattas said she has been speaking to a few seniors and working with them to “see if they qualify and meet the requirements.”

Requirements for the position include attending Monday night meetings, having predetermined office hours, completing a semester project and having a GPA of 2.5 or above, according to the ASCLU constitution and bylaws.

The constitution gives a timeline of three weeks for Ghattas to appoint someone “in good faith” to fill the vacant senate seat. Ghattas said she hopes to fill the position soon as senator duties have begun.

“[In good faith] means that I take my time to find someone to be appointed rather than just kind of rushing into it,” Ghattas said. “Ideally, we want everyone, you know, to be elected in the first go.”

The ASCLU website currently lists the senior senator seat as vacant. As for when it will be updated, Ghattas said “hopefully in the very near future.”

The website has yet to be updated with information on who holds the four first-year and junior senator positions.

“We just kind of got done a few weeks ago with our fall retreat so it’s been getting into the groove with regular meetings and allocations and stuff like that,” Ghattas said.

Nielson did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Nielson did, however, respond to the initial request via email Oct. 5 saying:

“I am not really interested in interviewing about the disqualification. I was disqualified because I didn’t turn in an election cost packet stating that I didn’t spend any money on my campaign. I appealed the decision, but because I signed the election form stating that I understood [the policy], the decision remained the same. Thank you.”

Alejandra Gonzalez

Editor’s Note: This article was updated to change the misspelling of senior Kyrra Nielson’s last name.