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SGA presidential candidates split on recent SGA Supreme Court decision regarding summer office hours

SGA presidential candidates split on recent SGA Supreme Court decision regarding summer office hours

SGA presidential candidates split on recent SGA Supreme Court decision regarding summer office hours
April 07
16:33 2019

On April 3 via the SGA Twitter account, the SGA Supreme Court released their ruling that one person from the winning ticket must be present in the SGA office on campus at the start of the term — June 1 — to conduct office hours.

Current SGA President Muhammad Kara said that the decision came down to the Supreme Court when they first received the request to rule on the Article.

“When they first received this, there’s no notifying the candidates, ‘Hey, this is happening,’” Kara said. “That’s not the Supreme Court’s job whatsoever. The Supreme Court’s job is to interpret what the section we need interpreted is and then when that decision is made, then it’s transferred back to our public eyes and says ‘This is a decision. However that affects anyone, it affects anyone, if that makes sense.”

Yolian Ogbu, candidate for SGA president, said she thinks this decision is “definitely the product of the establishment.”

“[It is] fear of maybe the idea that we can do much more than what they thought we could, that we can actually change what student power looks like and we’re not baits to the administration,” Obgu said. “We are our own people and we can be able to make substantial change whether or not the [administration] likes it. I think that’s our big thing — we’re unashamed and we’re unafraid and apparently that’s scaring some people.”

The other candidate for SGA President, Kennedy Montgomery, called the decision “just and fair.”

“It seemed like it was already stated in the Article, so it seemed like they were just basically already going on precedent,” Montgomery said.

Montgomery said that he found out about the decision through Twitter.

“It’s a very important job and that students need representation and students truly need someone to be there,” Montgomery said. “So whoever would be elected or anything of that nature, I do think they should be able to be there and just be able to serve students throughout the summer.”

Montgomery also said he has not finalized any internships or plans over the summer while both Ogbu and Hillary Shah, Ogbu’s running mate, have summer internships planned at the United Nations Headquarters and the American Civil Liberties Union, respectively.

Shah said the Supreme Court twisted the article.

“The rule is twisted from the constitution to make it something else,” Shah said. “And this was announced very, very shortly after Yolian and I both announced huge internship opportunities over the summer.”

Shah said that the timing of the ruling suggests something deeper.

“We are fighting [with] everything [to] make sure our policy-oriented, super reflective campaign is the best for the students,” Shah said. “And so something like a technicality, like not coming into office hours for six weeks [in the SGA office], not even online, is reflective of something. Not having anything to do with SGA’s function [and] everything to do with SGA’s dirty politics.”

This ruling would affect any summer plans the candidates who win the election have such as internships or vacations.

“I think it’s just very telling that here at UNT we talk a lot about making sure that our students are prepared for the rest of their lives and to change the world and whatever they want to do,” Obgu said. “And so it’s just really interesting that student government out of all places seems as though they’re discouraging students that want to partake in summer internships and summer opportunities just to hold office hours.”

The decision rendered by the Supreme Court, which is made up of seven justices, was unanimous and relied on Article 5, Section 3 of the Student Constitution which, in point D, states that the president and vice president must assume office on June 1 following their election.

Ogbu and Shah are still in the running for president and vice president despite this ruling and their summer internships.

“At the end of the day, I would say that the fact that Hillary and I are still both running knowing full well that we have these summer internship opportunities shows that we are so much more dedicated and so much more committed and willing to do as much as possible to ensure that we have [a] successful term if we are elected,” Ogbu said.

The candidates have a week from when the decision was rendered to submit an appeal, meaning Ogbu and Shah have until next Tuesday to appeal this decision.

Kara originally laid out the appeals process in an in-person interview and said he thinks the initial step is emailing the election commissioner, Peyton Paige Sennet.

“I think the first process is to email the election commissioner and say ‘Hey, I want to meet with the Supreme Court, I want to appeal this case,’” Kara said. “And then she will get in contact with the Supreme Court, they’ll set up a meeting and they will do that.”

However, around 30 minutes after the original interview, Kara sent an email revising his initial statements about the appeals process after talking to his advisor.

“I wanted to highlight Article VI – The Judicial Branch section 5: Jurisdiction,” he said in his email. “This is the section that gives the supreme court their power. Within that clause it also states that the supreme court shall have binding original jurisdiction over disputes arising over the constitution etc. She also relayed to me that there is no official appeals process for the supreme court since their jurisdiction is binding.”

He referred the Daily to Supreme Court advisor Christa Coffey and SGA Supreme Court Chief Justice Matthew Chafin who did not return a request for comment before publication.

Another issue Shah brought up with this ruling is Article IV, Section 1, point I of the Student By-Laws, “all procedures of the Supreme Court must be made clear to all parties by all reasonable attempts prior to the delivery of testimony in any case.”

Shah said she and Ogbu were not aware of this decision before it was rendered.

“We were just sent the decision late at night with no warning or idea that any deliberations were occurring, or even the fact that the Supreme Court was meeting,” Shah said in a follow-up email.

Kara said there is no bringing the people to the Supreme Court to “talk and all that.”

“The Supreme Court is given an article to interpret, they interpret it and it’s given to Paige, the election commissioner and then she releases that to the candidates it affects,” Kara said.

Regarding Ogbu’s “establishment” comment, Kara said he does not know how to take that.

“I would disagree and say that if the intent of that statement is saying that the Supreme Court or anyone is looking for a way to remove them or whatnot, that’s not the intent,” he said. “The intent is a student saw something on social media that they posted, read the article, submitted it to me and I asked the Supreme Court for a specific article that they shared with me, I asked for a decision.”

Kara said that every part of the Supreme Court, including every current member of the Supreme Court have been granted the approval of the senate.

“When it comes to the Supreme Court, the president has the right to pick who wants to be on the Supreme Court,” Kara said. “It’s an application process and it’s an approval by the student senate.”

Ogbu said that the timing of the ruling is “very interesting.”

“And as two people who aren’t part of SGA and don’t want to be deeply entrenched into that stale, bureaucratic culture that SGA’s kind of been known for the past couple of years, we’re trying to change that narrative,” Ogbu said. “This ruling coming in at this specific time is just very interesting, very telling of what the establishment sees as maybe an issue that we’re shaking things up a bit.”

Ogbu has served as Advocate General for SGA and Shah has no prior experience in SGA.

Jazz freshman Gabriela Laconsay said that while she is not involved in SGA, she does not think it is a big deal that the SGA president and vice president are not on campus holding office hours during the summer.

“They have their other things to do,” Laconsay said. “They have their own lives back home.”

Mechanical energy engineering junior Reagan Guthrie said that she thinks it is a good idea to have either the president or vice president on campus during the summer.

“I think they should try their hardest to be here for the most [part], but things come up,” she said. “If they have vacations, stuff like that, I mean, it happens. So I think it’s good that they’re going to be here but I don’t think they should always necessarily have to be here like 24/7, all the time.”

Shah said in a follow-up email that they do plan to appeal the decision.

“We’re trying to do real things,” Shah wrote. “People are scared. We’re not gonna stop.”

SGA Vice Presidential Candidate Khalil Anthony did not return a request for comment before publication.

Featured Image: Current SGA President Muhammad Kara addresses members of SGA at a meeting on Jan. 23, 2019. Image by: Ashley Gallegos.

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Lizzy Spangler

Lizzy Spangler

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1 Comment

  1. Clint
    Clint April 12, 05:07

    So the reality of this situation is that these candidates don’t want to do the job they’re running for. If they’re gone for the summer, who will be representing SGA at Freshman Orientation to recruit new student activists? Who will do the same at Eagle Camp… some appointed staff member? One of the biggest jobs/opportunities to represent the student body is to sit on a variety of University Committies and represent our voices. I’m all for trying to better yourself through internships, but if you want to represent the student body, you have to be their, show up and be our voice.

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