A lack of consistent enforcement has SGA members skirting the rules

The SGA policy requiring its elected and appointed members who receive a stipend to maintain a semesterly GPA requirement has historically not been upheld on a consistent basis. Both the senate and finance board have reconfirmed students who were removed from their positions after failing to meet the grade requirement at the end of the previous semester.

Three individuals this semester fell below the GPA threshold and were automatically removed, but reinstated soon after. Executive Vice President Mona Patel and Assistant Director of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs Vanessa Barksdale were both removed from their positions at the end of the fall semester once final grades were released. Upon returning to campus this spring, both Patel and Barksdale were fully reinstated. Their fall semester grades had not changed.

Similarly, Finance Board Representative Gregory Watson was also removed from his position at the end of the fall semester. Watson was unanimously reinstated during a finance board meeting on Feb. 21.

The SGA’s eligibility policy reads, “For the offices of President, Executive Vice President, Vice President for Student Organizations and Treasurer, an individual must have at least a cumulative 2.5 GPA, and have completed 24 total credits, and 12 credits at UMBC, to seek or hold office, and maintain at least a 2.5 semester GPA while in office.” For other elected and appointed members who receive a stipend, the semesterly GPA requirement is 2.25.

In reality, members of the SGA are only being held to the cumulative GPA standard, whereas the semesterly GPA requirements are effectively ignored through inconsistent enforcement.

There have been instances in the past, however, in which members of the SGA were not allowed to immediately return after being removed from office for failing to meet the academic eligibility requirements.

Senior psychology major Markya Reed was one of these students. When Reed fell below the GPA threshold in the fall semester of 2015, she was not allowed to immediately be reconfirmed.

“I believe the policy should be amended, even if it’s just to erase the current ambiguity. What is the point of automatically removing a student from their position, if they can [or] will be reappointed right away? Their GPA hasn’t changed at all from the time they were relieved of their duties,” said Reed.

During the senate meeting in which Patel and Barksdale were reconfirmed, Senator Evan Leiter-Mason echoed these statements.

“I am opposed to this nomination. This has nothing to do with the value [Patel] has brought to the organization. […] I think it would be better to debate if the policy makes sense, rather than to make individual exceptions [to it].”

Leiter-Mason was among three senators to vote against Patel’s confirmation. One senator during the meeting remarked that reinstating Patel would prove a “loophole” in SGA policy existed.

This semester is not the first in which such exceptions have been made.

“There have been several occasions in the five years I’ve worked with SGA when a student was appointed to an officer position after having held that same position and become ineligible. That can happen because the requirements in Section 5.3 of the SGA Constitution to continue in a position are different from the requirements to seek and hold a position,” said SGA advisor Craig Berger.

This semester, a vacancy appeared in the senate. Protocol is that the speaker of the senate, in this case Sarah Lilly, posts an application seeking potential candidates. Reed was chosen by Lilly and confirmed as the newest addition.

Editor’s Note: The word “members” in the first paragraph has been edited to say “elected and appointed members who receive a stipend” as the grade requirement does not apply to all members of the UMBC Student Government Association.