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GPSC discusses chancellor search, student trustee election, USG investigation

By Marnie Leonard

The Graduate and Professional Student Council discussed the ongoing search to find a permanent chancellor, changes to the student trustee election procedure and its investigation of the Undergraduate Student Government’s executive board at its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday.

GPSC President Brandon Woudenberg, who is a member of the Chancellor Search Advisory Committee, said the committee voted Tuesday night on finalists to recommend to the SIU Board of Trustees.

Woudenberg said the goal is to announce to finalists publicly after spring break. Due to a confidentiality agreement, he was unable to disclose the number of finalists but said it would likely be from two to four people.

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Ideally, Woudenberg said the final decision would be made at the next board of trustees meeting.

“This is the one thing I can say with confidence — we will have  permanent chancellor by the end of the semester,” Woudenberg said.

Because the committee is advisory in nature, the finalists chosen do not necessarily have to be the same ones recommended by the committee, Johnathan Flowers, GPSC’s vice president for student affairs, said after the meeting.

Flowers, who is also a member of the search committee, said it is vital that students make the trustees aware of what they want in a chancellor. Of the 21 members on the search committee, four are students.

“The board of trustees has no idea what students want,” Flowers said. “If students want to make clear their preference, they need to do it by whatever means possible — emails, letters to the editor, demonstrations, reaching out to constituency heads, whatever.”

Also at issue was the upcoming election for student trustee. GPSC member Jon Howard drafted a new set of election procedures for the position, which Woudenberg said are currently being negotiated with interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Lori Stettler.

One of the biggest changes being proposed is that the student trustee position be alternated between an undergraduate student in odd-numbered years and a graduate student in even-numbered years, Howard said.

For the 2015-2016 school year, SIU enrolled 13,031 undergraduates and 4,261 graduate students, according to university data. Woudenberg said that disparity means any graduate student running for student trustee would have to win the entire graduate student vote and a chunk of the undergraduate vote to stand a chance.

Flowers said this is an attempt to give graduate and professional students more representation before the board of trustees, which he said has not been particularly receptive to graduate student issues in the past.

“The student trustee is supposed to represent all students and, historically, has only engaged with undergraduate student concerns,” Flowers said.

Any changes in election procedures have to be approved by Woudenberg, Stettler and USG President Jared Stern. Woudenberg said the new rules should be finalized before spring break, at which point he would update the council.

In September, the council voted to form an investigatory committee after leaders from registered student organizations submitted a petition of 522 student signatures and made allegations of USG misconduct ranging from procedural errors to outright violations of the governing body’s constitution.

Clay Awsumb, the co-chair of the investigatory committee, said two hearings have been held already and one additional hearing is scheduled to take place. At the council’s March 21 meeting, Awsumb said he expects to have a report to present to the council.

Flowers, who recused himself from the investigation along with the rest of the council’s executive board, said the repeated complaints against USG also warrant investigation by university administration since the council doesn’t have the authority to take action.

Flowers said it is problematic that most of the senators raising allegations against USG are from minority groups. He added that USG is failing to pay attention to the constituency groups it represents.

“It boggles my mind that no one is looking into this except for another student governmental body,” Flowers said.

Staff writer Marnie Leonard can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @marsuzleo.

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