YSU Changes affect student elections
'Dr. Sweet is just attempting to exert some kind of undue authority,' the Student Government president said.
By RON COLE
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Springtime at Youngstown State University: blooming daffodils, students studying on benches outside the library, final exams lurking around the corner.
Oh, yeah, there's also that annual controversy called Student Government elections.
Like last year, when the candidate for Student Government president who received the most votes didn't actually win.
"We're real hopeful that we're not going to get a replay of that," said Judith Gaines, YSU executive director of student life.
YSU students choose a new student body president, vice president and other representatives in a two-day election Wednesday and Thursday.
New bylaws: The election will be conducted under new bylaws approved by Student Government -- with the prompting of YSU President David Sweet -- in the 12 months since the last balloting.
Everyone seems to agree that the new rules are likely to make this year's election much less contentious, although there are no guarantees.
"It's a rare election on any campus in America that doesn't have an allegation of a violation," Gaines said.
"This election will go much more smoothly than before," said Joe Long, SG president who was at the center of last year's controversy.
SG represents the student body in all campus issues and allocates about $30,000 annually to student organizations. The president is compensated full tuition for one year.
Last year's election: Long was declared the winner of last year's election even-though challenger Rajah James won by a 59-percent-to-41-percent margin. James was disqualified for violating campaign rules. He later threatened legal action.
Sweet intervened, setting up an 11-member committee of current and past students and YSU employees to rewrite the election bylaws and SG's constitution.
Among other things, the new rules set up a student elections board independent of SG to rule on election disputes.
"Fundamentally they have a new set of marching orders to work with," Gaines said.
While the new election bylaws are in place, a new SG constitution is not. Sweet had hoped the committee would develop a new constitution by this spring. Gaines said the committee could reconvene in the summer and have a new constitution ready by the fall.
Concerns about process: But Long, whose term as president expires in May, said he has major concerns about Sweet's entire constitution revision process, especially the part that requires YSU trustees to formally endorse the document before it goes to the student body for a vote.
"I think Dr. Sweet is just attempting to exert some kind of undue authority," he said. "They are trying to take away one of our due powers, and if they're able to do that, then we're a moot body."
Sweet was out of town and not available to comment.
Dr. Cyndy Anderson, vice president for student affairs, said it's pretty late for Long to be disagreeing with a process that Sweet developed six months ago.
She defended Sweet's oversight. "Ultimately, the president is responsible for anything at the university," she said.
"It isn't a matter that [Sweet and the trustees] want to run Student Government or that they want to interfere with the operations of Student Government, but they are involved, and I believe they are interested in the best interests of our students," she said.