As various campus organizations hold elections and prepare themselves for a changeover to new leadership in the coming year, absenteeism on the part of future student leadership has become a problem. While some organizations, such as Honor Board, have mechanisms already in place to continue to function properly when members are abroad, organizations such as Student Senate and the Inter-Fraternity Council (IFC) are facing a potential dearth in leadership and questions about how the absence of members of the executive boards will have to be dealt with.
The Inter-Fraternity Council (IFC), which oversees Knox College’s fraternities and their relationships with the administration and campus as a whole, held its election for executive officers on Feb. 3. In that election, junior Sam Frank was elected President and junior Charley Deutsch was elected Vice President. Both Frank and Deutsch will be studying abroad during the fall 2011 term, leaving IFC with a leadership deficit for that term.
“These two people [Deutsch and Frank] being gone will be particularly difficult to deal with,” IFC Treasurer sophomore John Cusimano said.
The President and Vice President of IFC fulfill vital roles for the functioning of the organization. According to the constitution and bylaws of IFC, the President’s duties include having “the power to enforce the constitution and bylaws of IFC” and acting as “liaison officer between IFC and the administration and faculty.” Frank added that additional roles of the President are to “be a face for incoming freshmen” and “do damage control” in the event that something goes wrong. The duties of the Vice President of IFC include coordinating all IFC activities, running meetings when the President is absent and acting as chairman for all judicial matters.
“Worst case scenario, I’m only one time zone away,” Deutsch said. He will be studying abroad in Buenos Aires.
IFC is facing a debate about how the roles of VP and President will be filled while Deutsch and Frank are abroad. IFC may hold a general election for an interim president, although they may decide to simply elect a replacement for the rest of the president’s term of office, while the role of VP may be filled by the recruitment chair.
“There will either be an interim or someone to take over the office until next election,” Cusimano said.
Cusimano continued to say, “It’s a detriment, but it’s nothing we can’t overcome. It is an opportunity to get some new people involved.”
That Frank and Deutsch would be abroad was unexpected.
“I was surprised [to find out they would be abroad],” senior David Fundakowski, who was the previous president of IFC and oversaw the election, said.
“Part of his [Frank’s] speech was that he would not go abroad,” Fundakowski added. “Sam said if he were to get IFC president he would not go abroad because … because the Greek system was more important than going abroad.”
Fundakowski said he did not remember Deutsch saying if he had applied to go abroad.
“I had not yet decided [if I would go abroad], though I did not make any secret of the fact that I was considering it,” Deutsch said.
“Even with him being abroad, he’s the best guy for the role,” IFC Secretary sophomore Lloyd Scott said, of Deutsch. Scott continued to call Deutsch the “backbone” of the program, and to say that the IFC Exec board was “definitely” aware that he was going to be abroad.
“During the course of that election, I hadn’t really planned on going abroad, especially if I got accepted to positions like IFC President …. Charley [Deutsch] didn’t tell anyone he was going to be abroad. I at least disclosed I had applied,” Frank said.
According to Fundakowski, Frank presented himself as being uniquely well-placed to be IFC President.
“He was very much trying to use the rest of his influences to get into this position [IFC President]—Honor Board, Senate, IFC,” he said. “When I heard Sam Frank was going abroad, I was disappointed that he was going to be letting down those organizations like Student Senate, Honor Board and IFC.”
The Student Senate Executive Board (Exec) elections taking place this week are plagued with cases of candidates who will be abroad for a term next year. Candidates for vice president Sam Frank and sophomore Michael Gasparro and candidate for treasurer junior Sara Ahmed will not be on campus for one term during the 2011-2012 year.
Gasparro mentioned that it is likely, but not yet entirely certain, that he will be abroad winter term 2012. Nevertheless, he said that if he does go abroad, he still feels that he is the best candidate; the vice president is in charge of running elections, and there are no major elections during winter term.
Ahmed will be abroad fall term. The position of treasurer is charged with chairing the finance committee, which recommends to the Senate how to allocate the student activity fee.
Other current executive officers expressed concern about absenteeism with elected positions.
“It’s a problem for those running [for executive positions] to knowingly not be able to fulfill their duties,” Senate Vice President senior David Barton said.
Senate President senior Sam Claypool expressed her personal concern about these “important positions” in Senate. She mentioned that the elected officers and their potential appointed replacements could run things differently, and to change the way things are run mid-year could impede progress.
“It’s bad practice. I think it should be changed,” Claypool said.
“If people don’t think that they can be a good leader while they’re abroad, people should vote for someone else,” Senate treasurer and president-elect Gordon Barratt said. He added that “someone can be abroad and be a good leader,” but that someone cannot meet the expectations of the office while abroad.
This issue is further complicated by the Senate effort to overhaul its constitution and bylaws, on which it is expected Senate will vote this week.
“I wish it’s something we would have fixed,” Claypool said. However, had it been included in the new rules, it would not have applied to this round of elections anyway.
Under the current rules, vacancies in Exec would be filled by Exec itself. Under the new rules, vacancies would be filled with Senate presidential appointees approved by a majority of the Senate. Either way, the student body would not directly elect the replacement officer. If the vacancy were to last more than one term, a special election would need to be held.
However, the new Senate bylaws as they stand before this week’s Senate meeting leave some room for interpretation as to whether the special election would replace the elected official for the duration of the vacancy or for the entire year.
Additionally, it is generally held and was acknowledged at last week’s Senate meeting that the vice president is in charge of both running elections and interpreting the constitution and bylaws to determine how the elections should be run.
Frank, who was also a member of the Special Committee on Rules, which drafted the new constitution and bylaws, recommends that the runner-up in the election should fill the vacancy.
“I’ll be in touch with [the replacement] to make sure my ideas are put in place” in the event that he wins this week’s vice presidential election, Frank said.