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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    President Kenny Decertifies Polity as Governing Body

    The experiment that was dubbed receivership is now over, and StudentPolity Association is decertified

    The experiment that was dubbed ‘?receivership’ isnow over, as Student Polity Association (SPA) has been decertified. Thedissolution of SPA has left in its wake a moderately intrigued, thoughcautious, student body and a Polity Senate shocked and scrambling to regroup.

    In SPA’s stead will be a conglomeration of interimcommittees, individual appointments and elected student leaders that will tryto provide continued services to students while filling a power vacuum thatsome say has been three years in the making.

    On Oct. 11, Stony Brook University President Shirley StrumKenny sent Akelia Lawrence, President of SPA, a memorandum notifying Lawrenceof her decision to dissolve SPA and the factors that led to it.

    ‘?I concur with your assessment that the currentsituation compels the campus administration to take further action to facilitatethe necessary reform of student government,’ Kenny wrote. ‘?Thisaction will involve the decertification of Student Polity as the representativestudent government for the administration of the Student Activity Fee(SAF).’

    Frederick R. Preston, Vice President for Student Affairs andKenny’s designee for working with student government, explained what thedecertification meant.

    ‘?Polity is not responsible for administration of the[SAF], which was in receivership,’ Preston said. ‘?As the weeks goon and we’re in the reform process, we’ll also be in the informprocess so that students will better understand [what is happening].’

    The contentious issue now is the administration of the$86.50 SAF paid by each full-time undergraduate per semester, which aggregatesto a sum of over $2 million dollars that is used to fund student-orientedclubs, organizations and programs. Preston insisted that decertification wouldnot diminish the beneficial services that once were provided by SPA.

    ‘?I am putting in place a plan to make sure that clubsand organizations can still do programming,’ Preston said.’?Services like C.O.C.A. and A.V. will still run. The interim planningcommittee will continue to function [in the same capacity] until May.’

    As it stands now, Polity Senate no longer exists and theclass representatives have been relieved of their duties. Some of theremaining members of the executive council will be retained in some capacity toassist with the day-to-day functions that were fulfilled by SPA.

    In her letter, Kenny cited the harmful consequences of theongoing ‘?structural / constitutional problems [upon] Polity’sability to effectively administer the allocation of [the Student] ActivityFee,’ as well as continued failure by the organization to institute’?necessary reform[s]’.

    A catalyst in Kenny’s decision-making process was anOct. 3 letter written by SPA President Akelia Lawrence to the UniversityPresident. Lawrence beseeched the ‘?administration to take whatever stepswere necessary’to remove the negative forces,’ from studentgovernment claiming to be ‘?out of options and very tired [of] trying tomake a dysfunctional government function.’

    Senators, particularly those in the Commuter StudentAssociation, were clearly surprised by Lawrence’s letter and PresidentKenny’s subsequent decision. Most refused to comment formally, but theywere indignant about the situation and viewed the letter as an devious move bythe Executive Council. CSA President Mike Bernardin, a Polity Senator beforethe SPA dissolution, agreed to go on the record.

    ‘?[Lawrence]’s letter completely misrepresentedSenate,’ Bernardin said. ‘?Basically, Senate runs flawlessly whencouncil is not there’I see [the letter] as an underhanded move by Councilbecause it was done without the knowledge of [the] Senate.’

    But Bernardin said that while he was upset at the currentcircumstances, he was looking forward. ‘?At this point all I can do islook into how it came about and hope for a chance to be part of the new studentgovernment when it is formed.’

    The Senate’s failure to adequately amend itsconstitution was widely seen as the major impetus for decertification. Theversion of the document that the Senate sent to the Execute Council containedlong-standing redundancies that were supposed to have been rectified in theamending process, and allegedly advantaged the Senate in relation to Council.The amending process itself was marred by disorderly conduct, general confusionregarding procedural rules.

    ‘?What I did see at the meeting was a total disregardfor governance,’ Preston said of one October meeting.

    The SPA Senate met last Wednesday, as it turns outunofficially, and voted to have Lawrence sign an affidavit confirming that shehad indeed written the Oct. 3 letter that was sent to President Kenny. Amember of Senate had obtained the correspondence and read the contents into theminutes earlier in the meeting.

    Some members of the Senate questioned the legality of theadministration’s actions. But administrators stated that after consultingextensively with legal council, they were quite confident about their action todecertify the current student government.

    ‘?I have talked to legal counsel on this campus and inAlbany,’ Preston said. ‘?Outside of the [SAF] there is no referenceto a student body.’

    In the SUNY guidelines, reference to a student governingbody is made only in association with the administration of the SAF. Once thisbudgetary power is removed from a governing body, that organization loses allauthority and legitimacy. It should be duly noted that the guidelines make nomention of a student senate.

    ‘?I don’t think this University would dosomething illegal. I know it wouldn’t,’ said Alexandra Duggan ofthe Dean of Students Office. ‘?If something is not working, it needs tobe fixed.’

    Kelly Brown contributed to this article

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