The Speaker of Student Government Association Senate, junior graphic design major Gerardo Herrera-Cortes, has stepped down from their position mid-semester in an unprecedented move, and student senator senior psychology Lilly Keplinger was voted in Monday, March 5, to lead the Senate for the remainder of the semester.
Herrera-Cortes resigned following actions allegedly taken outside of the Senate, unconnected to their actions as Speaker of the senate, a position they held for the past year. Herrera-Cortes did not respond to a request for comment. After their resignation, an election was held by the Senate, and Keplinger ran unopposed.
Keplinger will graduate in May, running with the goal of creating a smooth transition of leadership as the next administration will move in May 15. She is also against filling the three vacancies in the Senate from students who did not continue working in the SGA this spring, to avoid having to orient new members to the legislative branch.
Filling new vacancies requires a long process of filling out applications and interviewing possible new senators. It is not typical for seats to purposefully be left unfilled, and this decision is not final.
Current SGA Vice President and senior psychology major Markya Reed said on the election, “We’re at the end of the year, and we’re trying to figure out what’s best [for the Senate]. It’s difficult to tell what’s going to be best at this point.” The mid-year change of Speaker is an unprecedented event for the SGA.
The circumstances surrounding the need for Herrera-Cortes to step down is unknown, but not by choice. Attempts to reach other Senators for details regarding the circumstances of Herrara-Cortes’s resignation were not returned.
According to Reed, SGA was to make a public announcement on the sudden change of speakers, but was prevented from doing so by UMBC administration for liability issues. Student senators are also unable to comment on the specifics of the situation, at threat of being deposed.
In the past, the SGA has faced numerous issues surrounding the legitimacy of campaigns and candidates, even leading to the impeachment of the SGA body president Anthony Jankowski in 2015. In 2017, it was revealed that some SGA members have been reinstated in the government body despite failing to meet GPA requirements.
“I don’t see any similarities to that time,” said Reed, who sat as a student senator during the 2015 impeachment.
Although the Senate has experienced a shift in dynamic this semester, the SGA has created new legislation to prevent issues like cheating or being reinstated without proper credentials. Keplinger herself has cited a dedication to keeping elections healthy and stable as the new Speaker of the Senate.