SGA discusses senatorial conduct, approves new organization and funding requests

Emily Rose Thorne, Lead Writer

The Student Government Association discussed the expectations for senatorial conduct in light of Founders’ Day and Freshman Class President Joseph Muldrew’s recent op-ed in the Cluster.

In the op-ed, Sen. Muldrew expressed his disapproval of the speaker, Jay Sekulow, and of various SGA members’ roles in choosing Sekulow and facilitating the event.

At the meeting, Junior Senator Clark Myers motioned to hold a discussion about senatorial expectations in closed Senate. Sen. Muldrew objected and read from a written statement.

We should hold an open Senate for Senator Myers’ discussion of senatorial expectations. If our duty is to serve our fellow students and to be accountable for hearing their concerns, then we should not cowardly hide our words from them,” Sen. Muldrew said.

Senators voted on closing the meeting. The motion did not pass, and the Senate remained open.

Sen. Muldrew remained silent for the duration of the discussion

A written presentation from Sen. Myers preceded the discussion.

The purpose of this discussion is not to degrade, defame or attack any person,” Sen. Myers said. “My purpose is not to ask for any person’s resignation or to begin any form of impeachment or removal from office protocol.”

In his statement, Sen. Myers said that “this is not SGA versus one single Senator” and that he expects all Senators to abide by the Mercer Mission Statement and its subpart, the Community of Respect.

He read from the Mission Statement, “‘we affirm and respect the dignity and sacred worth of every person and celebrate both our commonalities and our differences.’”

He also reminded Senators of the oath they took when sworn into office, which states, “I [state your full name] swear to fulfill the duties of the office entrusted to me to the utmost of my ability, to serve purposefully and meaningfully, to speak frankly and candidly in representing student interests, and, in all my endeavors, to reflect honor and merit upon this organization and Mercer University,” according to the SGA Constitution and Bylaws document published Nov. 8, 2016.

Sen. Myers said that Sen. Muldrew’s op-ed violated these codes.

“In his article, there were multiple attacks at different people, degrading them, defaming them, and slandering them, and it reflects poorly on SGA as a whole, not just those that he attacked and defamed and slandered,” Myers said.

Sen. Myers also read from the University’s definition of harassment in the Student Handbook, and said that “harassment” includes defamation “by referring to [someone] as a bully with no context or proof,” allegedly referring to Sen. Muldrew’s description of President Buckner’s “brazen bullying” in his op-ed.

Sen. Myers read one of Sen. Muldrew’s statements to The Cluster where he said that President Buckner “solicit[ed] fellow senators to politely persuade [him] to be silent.”

“This is simply not true. By saying that … you’re involving each and every one of us. And quite frankly, I was never solicited, and this reflects poorly on me as a Senator of the SGA and the rest of the SGA,” Sen. Myers said.

Sen. Myers spoke about Sen. Muldrew’s statement in his op-ed that the decision to invite Jay Sekulow “was made unilaterally, behind closed doors in the administration building by Buckner, not during an open Senate session with all stakeholders present.”

Sen. Myers said that President Buckner, Vice President Oge Onuh, Heritage Life Chair Ashila Jiwani, and others on the Executive Board and Heritage Life Committee compile lists of possible candidates for the Founders’ Day speech. The lists are then sent to President Bill Underwood and other administrators who extend invitations to the suggested speakers and report back to SGA which ones reported themselves available.

“The way that it was done and how Founders’ Day is always chosen is the exact way that we’ve always had it … It’s a collaboration, and obviously [some people] will think that we failed in that collaboration. Maybe we did, I don’t know. But we tried our best. We did our best with what we had,” President Buckner said.

Sen. Myers brought up Sen. Muldrew’s Feb. 6 email to the freshman class and said that Sen. Muldrew abused his power as Class President by “hijacking” the Listserv assigned to him to send his opinion piece to the whole class.

Listserv is an application used to send messages to groups on an email list. After publishing his op-ed, Sen. Muldrew used the Listserv tool to distribute the link to all freshmen with his message about Founder’s Day events.

Only class presidents and members of the SGA executive board have access to class Listservs.

Many Senators agreed with Sen. Myers about Sen. Muldrew’s misuse of the Listserv.

Sophomore Sen. Emily Harvey said she found Sen. Muldrew’s use of the Listserv “disturbing,” especially because the email he sent did not include details about the Founders’ Day event.

“As a fellow class president, to see a Listserv like this used in such a way, I understand the temptation of power, but I understand that with great power comes great responsibility,” Sen. Michael Smith said,

Listserv is not mentioned in the Nov. 8, 2016 version of the SGA bylaws.

Many members of SGA asked what could be done to avoid inappropriate use of Listserv in the future.

Vice President Onuh said that the executive meeting Thursday, which is open to all members of SGA, will include legislation about what can be in the future to prevent this from happening.  

Some members of SGA said that they worried that Sen. Muldrew’s behavior reflected poorly upon the organization as whole.

Other issues that surfaced during the discussion were personal.

Sen. Cooper said that she was “hurt” by Sen. Muldrew’s article.

“I think one word that I just continuously keep hearing besides all the violations of the bylaws is ‘hurt.’ What you said hurt — not bullied, not anything like that — but it hurt. It hurt,” she said.

She said that she agreed with Muldrew when he approached her about uniting to oppose Sekulow, but that she did not know “how he was going to slander President Buckner.”

Senior members of SGA said that Sen. Muldrew published his op-ed before reaching out to them about his concerns.

Heritage Life Chair Jiwani addressed Sen. Muldrew.

“You said Buckner sits in a room alone and picks the speaker,” she said, “but in reality, that’s not how that works, and I feel like you could’ve come and talked to one of us and we could’ve explained that to you.”

Vice President Onuh said that she and President Buckner were not aware of Sen. Muldrew’s feelings regarding their administration prior to the article’s release. She said that she would have spoken with Sen. Muldrew had he come to her with his issue.

“It wasn’t until right before Senate the night before the article was released that we found out that President Buckner should be a little concerned about the content,” she said. “Buckner reached out to Senator Muldrew, and then we talked to him after Senate.”

Vice President Onuh addressed Sen. Muldrew. “We both would’ve addressed this issue strongly and would’ve talked to you if you’d come to us first.”

Aside from the discussion on senatorial conduct, SGA approved a new organization, the Sports Marketing and Analytics Club.

They also approved a Conference & Lodging request for the Mercer International Affairs Organization to send their representative, Ariel Daniels, to a mandatory training session so that their chapter can become affiliated with the United Nations Association of the United States of America.

A Food Funding request was also approved for the Mercer International Affairs Organization to host an event about Mediterranean food and culture.

A Conference & Lodging request was approved for the Mercer spoken word club, Point Blank, to attend a national collegiate poetry slam competition at Temple University in Pennsylvania.

The meeting minutes can be found here.