The senators of EKU’s Student Government Association met Tuesday night in the Whitlock building to discuss new allocations for their IT fund and appoint a new chief justice.
At the start of the meeting, Betina Gardner, chief information officer of the Information and Technology Department, proposed the student senators vote to allow the IT Department full access to $100,000 that is allocated to SGA each year, for technology improvements throughout campus, for the next five years.
The $100,000 is acquired through the $50 student technology fee students pay each semester that was approved in 1998, and is used by SGA to allocate money at their discretion through student technology grants.
Gardner explained that with budget cuts, technology upgrade costs and general maintenance costs, there is simply not enough money.
“The cost of technology escalates every year; software generally inflates at a rate of eight to ten percent every year,” Gardner said. “And you all know and are very aware about campus, that nowhere on campus is getting a budget increase, and neither is IT. When you compound budget cuts with inflation over general maintenance, you see we don’t have the money to keep stretching - we’re running thinner and thinner. ”
Replacing aged and outdated projectors throughout campus was one of the things that would benefit from receiving the technology fee money, Gardner said.
“One of the things we know is that all of the projectors around campus are aging out, they are at the end of their life and we don’t have a pot of money in IT to replace those projectors. So, if we had that money, we could replace those projectors, which helps learning, helps faculty, helps students. That’s our mission,” Gardner said.
Another project Gardner said the money would go towards would be renovating and moving Tech Commons (formerly located in Powell and currently in Roark) from the Roark building into the Keen Johnson building in what is now the Barnes and Noble book store.
“When students come to campus and walk around this beautiful campus, there are so many improvements, but you never see that it is a technology rich environment,”Gardner said. “Nowhere on that tour, you know, I see them come by the library and stop by the Noel Studio, but then they move on. There is really no place that showcases that we have a pretty decent network, that computer science is doing amazing things, that agriculture is doing amazing things with technology. You never see that anywhere. So what we would like to do is to showcase that in Keen Johnson in that beautiful corridor with all of that window space.”
Gardener explained that being allowed access to the allocation fund is an alternative to raising the technology fee, which has never happened but has been previously discussed.
Grant Minix, Committee on Committees Chair, said that a common idea among senators was to present IT with 80 percent of the $100,000 over the five-year commitment, and keep the remaining 20 percent for allocations through SGA.
When asked whether Tech Commons or classroom upgrades would take precedence if IT received the funds, Gardner responded that her priority is to get students to graduate.
“That’s what all of us here at this university are here to do. So there is an immediate need in these classrooms, so I don’t know how our priority could be anything other than classrooms at this point,” Gardner said. “Do I think moving Tech Commons to the bookstore would be great for students? I do. Do I think it would recruit students to this university? I do. Do I think it would be a great opportunity for you all? I do. But there is an immediate need in the classrooms. We will find money for the Tech Commons.”
SGA plans to vote on the issue on Nov. 27.
In other business, Brianna Palmer, the current sitting executive secretary for SGA, was nominated by SGA president Ryan Wiggins for the position of chief justice, a position that has been empty for over a year.
Palmer said the position is suiting to her career path goals, as she aims to be a judge one day. Palmer has been with SGA for two years and is captain of the EKU mock trial team.
Student body President Ryan Wiggins said that both Palmer’s knowledge in the Senate and Executive Board were a big factor in her nomination.
“I appointed Brianna because I have known her a long time and I know she has one of the best work ethics of anyone that I have ever known. She took the job in the senate that no one wanted to take and she took it and she didn't complain about it. She did the work that she needed to and she took a real interest in student government,” Wiggins said.
Following Wiggins, Chief of Staff Kaisee Riddell also spoke on behalf of Palmer.
“She has an excellent work ethic, she's a nice person, which i think is important whenever you appoint someone in an organization in a leadership position,” Riddell said. “And the most important quality in my opinion for this position is someone who has the drive, the work ethic and the want to get the court back up and running. She has that.”
When asked why Palmer had not already tried to fill the spot of chief justice, Executive Vice President Madison Lipscomb reminded everyone that because Palmer was still sitting executive secretary, they could not move forward with the conversation until Palmer had resigned that position on an official letter according to the SGA bylaws.
Within three minutes, Palmer had sent an email letter resigning her position as executive secretary.
The Senate then held a roll call vote that started with Minix, who said, “Even though I don't think the process was done right, I think Brianna is a capable candidate, so I vote yes.”
In order to pass, the Senate has to have two-thirds a majority vote, which would be 19 ‘yes’ votes.
Out of 28 Senators, only 18 voted ‘yes.’ Senators Dunn and Horseman were in dissenting opinion, with two votes abstaining.
Wiggins stood and asked the Senators what their concerns were.
“I tried to create a committee; the committee didn’t do its work. No one has ever told me what they want as chief justice or why someone should be chief justice. I received nothing so I don’t understand why this person hasn’t passed. If there is some reason you feel Brianna is not capable of doing it, please let me know. If there is someone else you feel is capable and there’s reasons for it, please, let me know,” Wiggins said.
Senator Horseman responded with why he voted no.
“...I do not trust her integrity to remain unbiased, as we are heading toward the election process coming in the spring; I have a hard time believing that she would remain unbiased’ and that is why I voted ‘no,’” Horseman said. “I understand we need to fill the position but I understand your closeness with her and I understand that. I want to make sure the student’s voice matters and that any case brought before the court that it doesn’t become stacked in one direction if that party doesn’t happen to be in favor with the court that is in charge.”
There was then a motion for a recount vote. Palmer came up short once more.
“This committee needs to work efficiently. We are going to work with President Wiggins and the executive cabinet, but everyone needs to have an opinion on this,” Minix said. “The reason this failed is because as a collective unit, we did not work hard enough over the past year and a half.”
The Senate decided that the chief justice search committee would have until the second meeting of next semester to present three nominations to President Wiggins, leaving the chief justice position unfilled for the remainder of the semester.
Palmer was reinstated as executive secretary.
Cole Bailey, a sophomore accounting major from Richmond, was unanimously voted in for the position of inspector general, with one absent voter. Bailey has been involved with mock trial since middle school and hopes to work as an attorney in the future.
Wiggins spoke about why he appointed Cole for the position.
“Cole is quite literally one of the smartest people I think I have ever met,” Wiggins said. “He is experienced as far as procedures and making sure he is matter of fact about things, like he said he has already looked over the constitution and bylaws and what not. And it would be a position that he would be able to fill for several years. Continuity is a big thing right now and I feel Cole will bring stability to that position and act unbiased in any situation.”
The remainder of the meeting the committee chairs gave their reports, and no new business was discussed.
The SGA Senate will meet again Tuesday Nov. 27.