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Monday, August 3, 2020

AS Board considering changes to election code

By Vanessa Murphy

The Associated Students Board discussed an addition to the AS election requirements that would require proof of employment eligibility at their meeting on Wednesday, February 14.

Last year’s election policy, which the Board is in the process of updating, said students must turn in a US employment eligibility form in their application packet for AS Board positions. One of the proposed changes is adding in that applicants “must provide proof of employment eligibility,” which would make the requirement more explicit. The proposed changes also include that employment eligibility must be verified by the elections coordinator before a candidate can begin physically campaigning.

These proposed changes come after Ana Ramirez stepped down from her vice presidential role on Feb. 5, after more than half a year of being unable to officially assume the position and working without compensation. The Board did not come to a decision at their meeting.

AS President Simrun Chhabra expressed concern over requiring employment eligibility, as it prevents undocumented students from taking student government roles.

“To not allow someone to grow and participate in what we have is so, so wrong,” Chhabra said.

Western and AS administrators said they explored alternatives to allow Ramirez to keep the position, such as turning the position into an internship or compensation through a grant or scholarship. However, they said none were viable. Because Western receives federal funding, it is bound by federal law, AS Vice President for Activities Julia Rutledge said.

One solution proposed during the meeting was turning the paid jobs of student government into volunteer positions. In this circumstance, any student would be eligible for the position, but no students would receive payment.

However, no decisions were made, and the Board will continue to explore the issue. The Board expressed being eager to change the eligibility requirement, but Casey Hayden, AS coordinator of student activities, said it would likely be too late to put a solution into place before the upcoming election.

“I know we want to take [the employment requirement] out, I just want to make sure there are backup plans so any person can get compensated and participate,” Rutledge said.

The Board is also considering changing the requirement that candidates must obtain 100 signatures from Western students to run. Last year’s code allowed students who were uncomfortable obtaining 100 signatures to arrange to do an alternate activity to engage students.

Initially, the Board was debating a proposed change to take out the alternative to getting signatures, but agreed an alternative was necessary to ensure inclusion for people who are unable or uncomfortable to get signatures. The Board is now considering excluding the signatures altogether.

“Does your ability to walk up and hand 100 people a clipboard to sign really show that you’re a critical thinker and leader?” Rutledge asked.

The Board is also considering adding a requirement that elected officers must maintain a minimum GPA of 2.5.

The Board will continue to discuss these issues at their next meeting, which is at 3 p.m. Wednesday, February 21. in the VU 567.

Documents from the Feb. 14 meeting can be found here.

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