By Paul A. Anthony, Editor in Chief
Questions have been raised about the selection this summer of three senior class officers to Student Congress.
Some current and former members of Congress have questioned both the wisdom and legitimacy of Students’ Association resident Jonathan Wilkerson’s appointment of the senators, who have not served in Congress and were not elected by their class.
“There was some confusion about that this summer,” said Rep. Erin Baldwin, Administration Building, and one of those who had been seeking a senior senator position.
Only one student ran for senior class senator in the spring, leaving four empty seats. Wilkerson appointed Rance Bland, Mim Smith and Kim Smith over the summer and Scott Sharp this week to fill them. The four now await congressional approval, Wilkerson said.
The appointments surprised many, including the three presidential candidates whom Wilkerson defeated in the spring. All three had expressed interest after the election in becoming class officers and had picked up petitions for entering the race.
However, none of them turned the petitions back in.
“I didn’t bother running last year because I had just finished running, and I was exhausted,” said Shep Strong, one of the candidates and a former junior class senator, adding that he had expected, based on constitutional research, to run in a special election later. “I had planned on doing it this fall,” he said.
SA’s Constitution does not give the executive president power to appoint class officers, stipulating a special election must be conducted to fill seats made empty by resignation. But it is silent on the issue of filling seats left vacant by a lack of candidates.
Wilkerson said that because recent changes in congressional setup had eliminated the differences between a class officer and a representative, he and the other executive officers decided the lack of a prohibition against appointment allowed him to name officers like he can representatives, with approval needed by two-thirds of Congress.
Reese Campbell, former Administration Building representative and candidate for executive vice president, said the issue hinges on how one reads the Constitution. A strict interpretation, he said, means” if it doesn’t give him the power [to appoint], he doesn’t have the power.
“”If Congress wants to let him appoint people, they can,” said Campbell, who made a reputation last year of being one of Congress’ legal experts. “But I really don’t think he has the power to do so.”
Apart from constitutional questions, some members of Congress questioned whether the senior class officers should have no congressional experience
“Constitutionally, it’s his prerogative to appoint people to those four positions,” Baldwi said. “But traditionally, the senior class senators provide some leadership and direction to Congress because they’ve been there the longest.”
But the running of student government will be so different-because of initiatives passed last year-that having little experience “might be a bonus,” Wilkerson said.
“They know a lot of different people,” he said of the three appointees. “We need people the students already know…. We definitely still will be looking to them as leaders-we expect them to be leaders.”
If approved, the four senators will join Dave Ruiz in representing the senior class. Ruiz was elected as the only candidate in class officer elections last semester. Of the three former junior officers who lost to Wilkerson in April, only Strong will not be involved in SA this year.
Taylor Hemness will serve as Don H. Morris Center representative, and Baldwin represents the Ad Building.
Bland, one of the four appointees and business management major from Lubbock, said he didn’t think he would have trouble adjusting to Congress.
“I’ll probably do a lot of observing and asking questions,” he said. “I feel like I have some leadership skills to offer.”