SGA President Lindsey May sent a message encouraging freshman class senators to vote ‘no’ on resolution S.R. 99.05 in Wednesday’s senate meeting which was interpreted by the author of the legislation, as well as other members of SGA senate, as a breach of presidential power.
A second message was sent later urging senators to vote how they please not in accordance with May’s opinion. May, senior marketing major from Amarillo, said the original message was not related to opinions of the resolution itself but rather was a product of her concern about the spotlight currently on SGA due to recent circumstances.
The resolution was proposing SGA create a system for senates’ proposed resolutions and votes to be published publicly to the student body.
“I was just thinking from a PR standpoint of SGA having the spotlight on us,” May said. “When the resolution was submitted to us, I read through it, and basically, there was no specification in there whether we would be publishing everybody’s votes from the entirety of the school year or just from now on, going forward… I wanted to protect all students in there from being singled out.”
Lobbying for or against legislation as president is allowed by the SGA constitution. May said though her actions were constitutionally not a breach of power, she may have moved too quickly.
“Constitutionally, it was not a breach of power. I read through the rules,” May said. “I also consulted with my advisor yesterday and I got a little too trigger happy, I guess. He said, ‘The only thing that you can do is call people, text people, tell them to vote no on this if you’re really worried about it being a bad look on SGA.’”
Ryan Richardson, vice president of student life, serves as May’s advisor and advises student government overall. Richardson said part of his job is to offer guidance and help the SGA president determine the potential outcomes of legislation when necessary – without inserting his own opinion.
“I never have an opinion about what the president wants to do,” Richardson said. “I simply give the ramifications of each available option so that they can navigate that. If the president has an opinion on a matter, it is completely appropriate for the president to call elected officials or email in this case, to talk with them about their vote, even to lobby them for a particular view. This is literally the bedrock of democracy. It is not a breach of power.”
Resolution S.R. 99.05 was authored and presented by sophomore senator Bryson Frank. The resolution was voted down with 22 against and 15 votes in favor of the resolution. Frank declined to comment whether or not May’s comments affected the outcome of the vote, but did express disappointment in the decision.
“I do think it’s absolutely necessary for this legislation to come about, but I find it ironic that the arguments espoused by those who are in opposition were anti-democracy,” Frank said. “I feel like a student government and one that represents the students – people should know what the representatives are doing.”
May only sent her lobbying messages to freshman class senators – excluding any other senators and the legislation’s author. According to May, the reason her messages were sent only to freshman class senators is because they are a part of the president’s committee.
“The freshman and I were pretty tight because we’re all in the same committee, so I’d consider myself pretty good friends with all of them,” May said. “That’s the only reason that I thought to send it there in our group chat and later, the author of the legislation sent me an email. We had a phone call about it and cleared the air on everything.”
Freshman Class President Callaghan Mitchell and Freshman Class Vice President Tamil Kayode-Adele received May’s message about the legislation.
Mitchell, freshman Bible and ministry major from Conroe, voted against the resolution and declined comment on whether or not May’s message impacted his vote, but did state he agreed the resolution may have been drastic.
“I do think that her warning against maybe doing something that’s drastic so soon could bring a negative impact on campus,” Mitchell said. “I think she was definitely looking out for the best interest of campus, and she just wanted to help inform us, because, again, this is our first year on the senate.”
Kayoede-Adele, freshman criminal justice major from Midland, voted in favor of the legislation and said May’s message did not affect her vote and hoped it didn’t affect others as well.
“Quite frankly, I hope it didn’t change anyone’s minds whether they were already in negation or if they were in affirmation because I feel like to vote on a bill, you should hear the argument,” Kayoede-Adele said. “I just feel like it was just a way to say, ‘This is an option, tabling it.’”