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Posts tagged with Ku Student Senate

KU Student Body’s “Burritogate” saga roils on, but end could be near

Another chapter in the Kansas University student body "Burritogate" saga was written Thursday.

Its authors were the University Judicial Board, a body of faculty, staff and students that resolves "to whatever extent possible" conflicts, complaints and grievances brought before them.

The board had the final say on the matter of the Jayhawkers' disqualification from the student elections earlier this month.

On Thursday they upheld the disqualification, a move that will free the Election Commission to finally release the results of the student elections held two weeks ago. Jake Rapp, chairman of the commission, said in an email that the commission will do so by Monday.

As many on the hill probably know by now, the Student Senate Election Commission disqualified the Jayhawkers days before the election, though they remained on the ballot for the election.

Another coalition, Grow KU, alleged that Jayhawkers spent $300 at Chipotle to woo potential voters and then failed to report the expense to the commission. The Election Commission agreed, and disqualified the Jayhawkers, per new rules passed by the Senate in the fall.

The Jayhawkers appealed to the student government's judicial branch, which resulted in an injunction that has kept the election results under lock and key thus far.

The case then got kicked to the University Judicial Board. With no one disputing the burrito money itself, Thursday's decision by the board boiled down to definition of the word "campaigning."

In its decision, the board said the Jayhawkers "argue that the term is limited to activity that is designed to win over undecided potential voters." The Jayhawkers contended that all who attended the burrito party had already expressed interest in the coalition, and so they were engaged in fomenting party leadership, not trying to win over voters.

The commission and board disagreed, citing evidence that general information about the Jayhawkers platform was dispensed at the burrito summit — something not likely to take place at an intra-coalition strategy session of insiders.

The Jayhawkers alleged that the commission had applied new campaigning restrictions arbitrarily, noting events where Grow KU offered free cappuccino and snacks to event-goers. But the board said the cappuccino, in the one case, didn't represent an incurred expense (they were available to all via a nearby cappuccino machine); the snacks, in the other case, the board said were given at a meeting that did not involve campaigning, and so did not need to be reported.

The Jayhawkers were among three coalitions that formed to launch students into student government for the next school year. Student coalitions have a long history of "conflicts, complaints and grievances" in student elections.

They are formed by likeminded students who want to pool their resources to run for student government on a common platform. They exist as campaigning entities. They are not meant to govern.

One coalition, KUnited, dominated KU student elections for nearly two decades, a streak broken last year by Ad Astra. Moreover, elections were often punctuated by squabbles and questionable campaign practices.

Last fall student body executives Marcus Tetwiler and Emma Halling and some senators advocated for ending the coalition system altogether, but they were rebuffed by the full Senate. However the Senate did pass new regulations on campaigning, including spending limits, meant to make elections more fair and meaningful. The new rules include the ones the Jayhawkers broke.

The Board thinks perhaps the rules themselves go too far.

Concluding their decision, the Board said:

We are admittedly not experts in student elections. Still, the extreme remedy of party disqualification seems to us disproportionate to the severity of the violation and arbitrarily insensitive to the Jayhawkers' effort to cure any violation. But the source of these problems, it seems to us, is the inflexibility of the pertinent regulations rather than any arbitrariness on the part of the Commission.

On Monday we should see which coalition was chosen by the student body to lead next year. Depending on the vote, there could be more Burritogate drama ahead.

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KU students call on regents to suspend social media policy

Kansas University students have joined in the call for the Kansas Board of Regents to suspend a social media policy passed in December.

The KU Student Senate passed a resolution this week urging the regents to ax the policy while a regents-created work group reviews it and recommends revisions.

Garrett Farlow, a KU freshman in journalism, was one of the primary authors of the resolution, which states the social media policy "inhibits free speech of faculty and staff, depriving them of the academic and personal freedoms necessary to effectively educate students."

Farlow said he was concerned that the policy could inhibit faculty members who engage with peers and students on social media. "Although the policy is directly targeted at faculty and professors, it obviously affects students," he said.

The policy allows university heads to suspend and fire employees for social media posts that conflict with the best interest of the university or its ability to perform services, among other violations.

After passing the policy unanimously in December, the regents announced they would review it in response to widespread criticism that it was too broad and could restrain free speech.

The regents established a work group of faculty and staff from state universities to study the policy and make recommendations to the board by April. But faculty and staff groups have repeatedly asked the regents to suspend the policy until the work group makes its findings. Yesterday the regents pushed back against those calls.

Farlow said the issue hasn't gotten much attention from students largely because they don't follow media accounts as closely as faculty and staff. But Farlow is trying to make it an issue with students, starting with last night's resolution.

"The more people that know about this, the more impact that we can have," he said. "The First Amendment is very near and dear to my heart."

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KU students in Topeka to ask for break on sales taxes for textbooks

A contingent of Kansas University students spent the day in Topeka Tuesday advocating for higher education issues with lawmakers.

Members of KU's Student Senate joined students from other Kansas Board of Regents universities traveling to the capital as part of Higher Education Day.

On behalf of their student bodies, the delegation is calling for lawmakers to eliminate sales taxes on textbooks as well as discuss higher education funding.

Marcus Tetwiler, KU student body president, said in a release that getting rid of sales taxes on text books would "help alleviate these rising costs" of textbooks and decrease the overall cost of education.

Eric Hurtt, a KU senior in political science and government relations director for the Senate, helped coordinate meetings and events.

While student delegations have traveled to Topeka to talk with lawmakers before, Hurtt said he thought this year's student delegation had better talking points.

"This year we're picking things where we all have skin in the game," he said. "You get a better seat at the table if you pick issues we can actually do something about."

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KU student-government leaders planning to lobby state legislators on concealed carry on campus, higher-education funding

We're just a few days away from a new Kansas legislative session, and KU's student government is getting ready to join in the fun.

Student Body President Hannah Bolton is rounding up students to come along on Higher Education Day, Feb. 11, when student governments from all the Kansas Board of Regents institutions will head to Topeka to lobby on the sorts of issues that might matter to college students.

Bolton said the KU representatives would focus on three issues in particular:

• Concealed carry on college campuses. The KU students will lobby against this, as they did last year at the same event. Bolton said the student-government groups at the other Regents universities would each be writing resolutions opposing on-campus concealed carry, as well.

• Potential higher-education funding cuts. Gov. Sam Brownback won't unveil his recommended state budget until the session starts, but the state Division of Budget last month recommended cuts of approximately 8 percent to higher-education funding, according to the Board of Regents. Bolton said that number is worrisome to students, so they'll hammer this one hard.

• And, finally, issues related to international students. Bolton said some of these issues (such as working restrictions) will apply more to the federal level, but one issue the KU students might consider will be in-state tuition for illegal-immigrant students who've lived in the state for at least three years. She said she wasn't sure how other student governments might feel about that issue, though.

KU student-government folks will also head to Washington, D.C., to lobby along with contingents from other Big 12 schools in March.

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Student-government campaign season beginning at KU

It is "stop day" at KU, but the only thing we'll be "stopping" here at Heard on the Hill is the course your day was taking before you saw this link and clicked on it.

The current academic year at KU may be nearly half over, but the political chess pieces already are arranging themselves on the board in preparation for the spring student-government elections.

The Daily Kansan reported on the political maneuverings during this last week of classes for the semester. Topeka senior Brandon Woodard, the current student body vice president, will run for student body president on the ticket of the juggernaut KUnited coalition, with Salina junior Blaine Bengtson as his running mate (Bengtson led the introduction of a new gameday recycling program this fall).

Rising up in the opposing corner (yeah, I know, I'm switching from chess to boxing; I can't be expected to keep my metaphors straight this early in the morning) will be the new Ad Astra coalition. Paola junior Marcus Tetwiler will run for president on that ticket, backed up by running mate Emma Halling, a junior from Mishawaka, Ind.

Other competitors, though, could emerge in other corners (I'm not sure what the metaphor is now).

Student elections at KU do not quite have the pendulum-like nature of our national politics. The KUnited outfit has won 18 of the past 19 elections, the Kansan reports. It remains to be seen whether this new group can present a challenge, but as your go-to campus pundit here at the Journal-World, I can say one thing about it: It has a good name.

Please send your KU news tips, making use of chess boxing metaphors if you wish, to merickson@ljworld.com.

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