The Washburn Student Government Association meeting Wednesday, Feb. 18 was thrown into turmoil when John Shively, who was dismissed in November 2014 from the Senate, not only made an appearance but showed up dressed for the meeting and took a seat at the table with the rest of the senators.
Soon after the meeting began, Shively entered the room and addressed WSGA president Cassandra White and the rest of the governing body, telling them that his removal was unconstitutional because members of Internal Affairs do not have the right to remove members from the body, which is what happened in his case, and therefore he is still a member.
Mckinlaye Harkavy, faculty advisor to WSGA, stopped him before he could speak further.
“I’m going to stop you right there, just as the advisor of this body, and ask that if you can’t follow the directions that we ask of just waiting until the end, then can you leave and we can discuss maybe putting you on the agenda for later,” Harkavy said.
“Could I ask that we follow our own constitution?” Shively responded.
Control of the Student Government meeting returned to the students when White then addressed Shively. Shively reasserted his claim, and said that he brought up the issue on Wednesday and not earlier because he previously did not have access to the constitution to cite in his case.
“The only reason I bring this up now is that several months ago, I didn’t have access to the constitution and I made multiple requests for it,” Shively told White. “It certainly was not at your site at the time. But anyway, it was not until recently that I found it online and came back to address this.”
Citing bylaws, Shively said that the Internal Affairs committee does not have the authority to remove members from their chair. White told him the the committee does have that power.
In the WSGA bylaws, however, it is stated: “It shall be the duty of [Internal Affairs] to recommend legislation requesting removal of any WSGA member guilty of mis-, mal-, or nonfeasance of office.”
According to this bylaw, the Internal Affairs committee, which consists of three Senate members and three executive staff members, can recommend legislation to remove a member from his or her seat, but it does not grant them the power to do it themselves.
Shively read to the Senate and the executive staff excerpts from the WSGA constitution and bylaws. He cited eight clauses which he contended WSGA violated when removing him from office, making his dismissal unconstitutional and therefore void. He asserted that because WSGA failed to go through the proper procedures in removing him, he is still a member of the Senate.
WSGA meetings are held at 6:30 every Wednesday during the fall and spring semesters, except during finals week and days on which there is no school, per the WSGA constitution. The bylaws state that members are afforded five absences. It does not say in the bylaws or the constitution what the consequences for missing more than five meetings are, however, only that five absences is the limit.
On Nov. 13, Shively was informed he was being dismissed because he had exceeded his absence limit for meetings.
According to WSGA bylaws, upon a senator reaching a fourth absence, the chief of staff is to notify the senator in writing of his or her status and the consequences of missing more meetings.
Shively said he was never given any form of notice after his fourth absence, which should have come from chief of staff Chris Bird, violating one of WSGA’s bylaws.
In a Nov. 13 email, Bird informed Shively that Internal Affairs had met Nov. 12 and voted him out of his position.
This, however, violates two bylaws, as the bylaws state that the informing of dismissal must come from the president, and in addition Bird is a member of Internal Affairs which cannot remove members.
The executive staff, after Shively’s reading of the bylaws, conceded that he is still a member of WSGA, but they would be starting the procedure to remove him.
Shively’s formal hearing with Internal Affairs is set for Tuesday. The bylaws say due process hearings must be held in a closed session, unless the person being reviewed is an elected position, which Shively is.
Multiple members of WSGA criticized Shively openly at the end of the meeting, but Sen. Michah Offermann, a 4-year member of WSGA, spoke up and did not criticize Shively.
“I think that because of the history and because of, like, historically, that has never been an issue,” Offermann said. “I think this administration has done a really good job reading the constitution – following the constitutional rights as opposed to everyone else historically. Granted, they did kind of botch this situation, but I think that you need to talk to them privately.”
Before he continued, Harkavy cut him off and ended the discussion.
“There will be no more discussion on this issue,” Harkavy said.
As the WSGA members got up to leave, senior political science major Devon Tarantino, who served as administrative assistant to former WSGA president Shelbie Konkel, approached the podium.
“If I may ask the administration a question. Just for the record, are you guys admitting that you improperly removed Mr. Shively from the senate?”
Some of the body answered with “no,” while others gave non-answers. White eventually gave a simple reply.
“Correct,” she said.
On Thursday, Sen. Micah Offermann, who said Wednesday night that the administration had botched the situation, responded differently in a social media comment.
“The constitution is the governing document of the organization and it serves to be a public statement as to the practices and procedures of the organization,” Offerman said. “The by-laws, on the other hand, are more of a specific set of suggested guidelines and they are more fluid than the constitution by being such. Because of this, the White-McAfee administration of this 2014-2015 senate has done nothing explicitly wrong.”
Despite Offermann’s claim that the bylaws are guidelines and the administration did nothing wrong, according to the WSGA 2014-2015 constitution, Article II, section 3, “The President and Vice President shall be bound by WSGA By-laws.”
This means Shively’s removal from someone other than White was a violation of a bylaw, to which she is bound by the constitution.
White did not respond immediately to interview requests on Thursday.
The Washburn Review requested a statement regarding Wednesday’s meeting from WSGA public relations director Anthony Ho Thursday morning but received no immediate response.