Student files lawsuit against Board of Trustees

By Matt Daray


After several months of disagreements and fights, the SIU Board of Trustees is now the target of a lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed July 8 by Carbondale attorney Darrell Dunham on behalf of Nolan Sharkey, a second year law student, who claims student trustee Jesse Cler failed to meet the required amount of signatures to be put on the election ballot for the April campus election. The lawsuit alleges Cler was allowed to have his name on the ballot even though he lacked the signatures required and a ruling by the Student Trustee Election Commission showed that Cler’s petitions did not follow the commission’s rules.


The lawsuit names each member of the board as defendants and seeks an injunction to nullify any votes after July 1 that Cler makes. It also asks for Sharkey to be named the student trustee for the Carbondale campus.

Dunham, who is also an emeritus professor at SIU, said the case bothers him because the Board of Trustees has a large impact on the university and, thus, the southern Illinois community.

“The Board of Trustees is obviously the governing policy board and who you have on there voting and participating is just immense,” he said. “The notion that somebody who was not certified by the election authority being seated as a board member is, to me, deeply disturbing.”

Dunham said the election is required by state law and he thinks the standards for any type of public election should be used in this instance. He said given how much impact a student representative can have on the future of the university, he thinks this case should be treated seriously.

Dunham also said the decision to put Cler’s name on the ballot was wrong because his name was placed on the ballot by the interim dean of students Katherine Sermersheim, who did not have the authority to make this decision.

The choice to add Cler to the ballot would have caused him a lot of trouble as a teacher, Dunham said.

“I think I would have been disciplined for engaging in that kind of behavior, for interfering with the student election, and I should have been,” he said. “It would just never occur to me to try and intervene that way.”


Randal Thomas, chair of the SIU Board of Trustees, said he declined to comment on the case because it is an ongoing investigation.

The case is also being investigated by Adrian Miller, a junior from Carbondale studying political science and the Undergraduate Student Government president.

Miller said his office was handed the lawsuit in order to investigate the case. He said while he was not president when the issue arose, he has taken time to learn more on the subject and is continuing to investigate it.

“We are looking into it and that’s really all I can say,” he said.

A student representative from the SIU Carbondale campus did not take part in the July 11 Board of Trustees meeting in Springfield.