The Georgetown University Student Association Constitutional Council ruled Sunday that Sam Greco (SFS’15) has been the legitimate speaker of the GUSA senate since former Speaker George Spyropoulos’ (COL ’14) resignation in December, invalidating the Jan. 12 election of Emily Siegler (SFS ’14).
According to the council, confirmation votes for a vice speaker to become speaker, such as the one Greco submitted to last Sunday, are unlawful and the council ruled to bar these kinds of votes in the future. The council’s decision comes after GUSA Election Commissioner Ethan Chess (COL ’14), independent of his commissioner duties, filed a petition requesting an examination of the election. The council met Friday and unanimously decided to consider the petition.
According to Constitutional Council Justice Josh Shinbrot(COL ’16), one question that needed to be answered was whether the confirmation vote and ensuing election were legitimate processes.
“For me, after speaking to a bunch of people and reading and rereading the constitutional bylaws, I think that bylaw section 2.05e is pretty clear in that, in the event that the speaker of the senate resigns, the vice speaker becomes speaker. It does not talk about a confirmation vote happening,” Shinbrot said.
As a result, he considers the confirmation vote unnecessary.
Another point of debate was the precedent established by such confirmation votes in past years, such as the one that occurred when Zach Singer (SFS ’15) replaced Nate Tisa (SFS ’14).
“I think that it’s dubious at best to consider that precedent. I look at that situation and I say, in that instance, the bylaws were not followed. Zach Singer became speaker the moment Nate Tisa resigned,” Shinbrot said.
The Constitutional Council members will each release their opinions in writing by the end of the next two weeks. According to Shinbrot, the council members will use this time to edit their notes. Because they had come to a decision in a private session before a public hearing, the members decided to release the decision first.
“We didn’t see any reason to wait further because we had a decision, and we didn’t want to keep people waiting, wondering what’s going on with the senate,” Shinbrot said.
The efforts to reach this decision consumed many hours.
“It wasn’t a simple, clear cut, this person versus this person. There were questions regarding who’s the speaker, and there were larger questions regarding making it clear, as to what the procedure actually is if the speaker resigns and how the vice speaker ascends that role,” Shinbrot said.
Chess said that he was pleased with the results of the hearing.
“I’m glad that the council saw the issues the same way I did. It’s obviously important that the person who was speaker all along gets to do the job,” Chess said.
Although the council decided not to reveal their individual reasonings at the moment, Chess does not believe that this is a problem.
“I think that the constitution says that they can release their opinions. It doesn’t necessarily say that they have to do it right away, and I think they wanted to get the decision out there because there were obviously implications of the functioning of the senate so the important thing was that they came to an agreement,” he said. “The important thing is the decision, and the reasoning and the rationale can come later.”
Though Chess’ original petition asked for an injunction that would prohibit the senate from convening, the council denied that request and made GUSA Vice President Adam Ramadan (SFS ’14) the presiding officer of the senate while it reviewed the petition. Chess did not find problems with this ruling either.
“I think that the purpose of that injunction that I requested was mainly to make sure that nothing happened that was of consequence before any decision was made. They basically did the same thing by installing Adam Ramadan as temporary presiding officer, and it sounds like they’re going to make a decision on this [on Sunday] before anything else happens,” Chess said.
Greco conveyed his appreciation that the council was able to review this case.
“I think that there were some obviously very large constitutional questions with what happened. Fortunately, we have an institution, the Constitutional Council, to review these things, and I appreciate their work over the past couple days. They were quick and effective, and I’m looking forward to getting the GUSA senate back to work,” Greco said.
Senator Tyler Bridge (COL ’17), who had abstained in the confirmation vote, was present during the hearing.
“I didn’t vote yes, I didn’t vote no because quite honestly, I knew that this was going to happen. It is what it is but my reaction is, if that’s what the bylaws say, then the Constitutional Council did the right thing. Whether it’s right or wrong, that’s not the answer,” Bridge said.
Siegler declined to comment.
Update: Siegler issued a statement to The Hoya on Monday.
“I have profound respect for institutional integrity. I look forward to working with the senate and returning to the Intellectual Life committee this semester, where we have been working to improve the conditions to stimulate intellectual health and curiosity on campus,” she wrote in an email.