Heated scuffle in the WSGA senate

Charity Hockman

Travis Perry

As lightning flickered Wednesday in the stormy night, the tension between members of the Washburn Student Government Association was nearly as thick as the clouds which filled the dark sky.

Stemming from the announced resignation of special events director Charity Hockman, many senators took offense to action taken by Whitney Philippi, WSGA president, regarding Hockman’s actions. At the Oct. 28th WSGA meeting, Hockman announced her resignation would be effective as of the end of the fall semester.

“I feel at this point the role of WSGA is to serve students,” said Hockman. “However, I feel this administration has not done this wholeheartedly.”

Hockman continued by saying she felt it would be deceitful to continue to have her name tied to an administration which was not going in the direction she thought it should. Citing problems of accountability and upholding the WSGA constitution, Hockman informed Philippi and other members of the executive staff prior to her announcement before the senate.

“I was seeing both sides of the coin, and I didn’t feel there was honesty and transparency,” said Hockman in an interview the following week.

Following the resignation notice, Philippi agreed to allow Hockman to stay on through the end of the semester, a decision which was contradicted Wednesday when Philippi issued an early acceptance of Hockman’s resignation.

Announcing the news prompted cries of anger, frustration and unconstitutionality from senators at the Nov. 5 WSGA special session because the action Philippi attempted to take was not within her authority as president.

“If your [Philippi] intent was to get rid of tension within the executive staff, you ended up creating a bunch of tension within [senators],” said R.J. McGuire, senator.

Senator Will Lawrence concurred with McGuire, saying it is difficult for him and other senators to do their jobs when they don’t know what executive staff members, Philippi in particular, are doing.

Josh Maples also voiced concern over the current state of the student government saying he felt they were becoming too divisive.

“These cliques within the senate are tearing us apart,” said Maples.

Additional calls of Philippi stepping outside the boundaries of her position resounded during an Oct. 28th forum on the outdoor stage project. With additional funding for the project still up in the air, many senators feared Philippi, who was originally against the passage of the bill last year as a senator, would try to kill off the project herself and bypass the senate. Some even went as far as saying they felt she was trying to strip the senate of its legislative power.

Philippi said it was not her intention to bypass the senate in either situation. Rather, poor communication was the culprit for many of the student government’s problems.

“I feel like this staff has done what they could to communicate, but there have been a few barriers to get across,” said Philippi last Wednesday.

Ultimately, several things unfolded from both situations. In regard to the outdoor stage, if the project was not able to move forward after trying several funding outlets, the decision as to what should happen to more than $20,000 of student activity funds will be put to a vote before senators. And as for Hockman’s resignation, it was determined Philippi did not have the authority to accept Hockman’s resignation earlier than the date which she had specified, meaning technically Hockman was never removed from her executive staff position. Philippi’s decision was traced back to her misunderstanding of that aspect of her authority, subsequently leading to her not consulting with Kyle Volle, WSGA parliamentarian, on the issue.

“I admit that I shouldn’t have made that decision,” said Philippi. “It was a bad decision on my part.”

While Philippi said she never had the intention of deceiving or misleading senators, she conceded communication could be better. She said actions will be taken to increase the flow of information between her and members of the executive staff, as well as the and senate. Though the situation created more headaches than many would have preferred, Volle tried to look at the experience from a somewhat positive perspective.

“When you have a group, if you don’t have this kind of conflict, then people aren’t being honest,” said Volle.