UAB’s undergraduate student government voted to confirm USGA President Kyle Adams’ Presidential Letter of Appointment in early July after failing to reach a two-thirds majority in support of the letter in early spring.
The functionality of the student government was predicated on the confirmation of Adams’ letter, which included appointments for 30 USGA positions. One of those roles was that of Chief Justice, which carries the sole authority to swear in the year’s newly elected senators.
The letter called for the creation of four new positions within the Executive Cabinet. These positions were the subject of concern among senators and the reason for its failure on the Senate floor earlier this year.
The new positions and their appointees include:
- Cassidy Stoddart, Chief Advisor
- Sarah Wilson, Deputy Chief of Staff, Administration
- Daniel Truong, Deputy Chief of Staff, Internal Affairs
- Wajiha Mekki, Deputy Chief of Staff, External Affairs
Adams said he had several meetings with senators about the positions after the vote in April.
“A lot of (the feedback) was ‘These positions are not well defined, we need to define them more,’” Adams said. “So, we went in and created a multiple page, I think almost 16-page document, making sure that they were clearly not dealing with any responsibilities of people that are already elected into our positions in student government.”
Eshan Pokhrel, a Collat School of Business senator, was the sole speech against the confirmations in July. He later voted “present.”
“Without any clarification, we can’t just vote ‘yes’ because [Adams] wants us to, we’re creating new positions,” he told Kaleidoscope after the vote. “If you want to fix problem areas in USGA… you have to actually give them roles that will let them only tackle X, Y, and Z, or at least focus on X, Y, and Z, so they can actually solve a situation, not just give them broad authority to do whatever they want, which is basically what these job descriptions had them doing. One of them says that this position can oversee ‘all administrative aspects of USGA,’ it’s ridiculous.”
Adams said that during the vote in April, one Senator, in an effort to protect other Senators from being bullied into voting in any particular way, “raised their placard and made a motion to basically sequester the senators. It’s not an existing motion within the USGA, but they basically made a motion to have every single person that was not a member of the Senate leave the room, which is not something that I’ve ever allowed during my time in the Senate.”
“These votes aren’t private… This is a public meeting and these people are affected by it. We called everybody back into the room to be able to witness the vote. Then they requested the vote to be private still by way of email voting,” said Adams. The Alabama Open Meetings Act prohibits any governmental bodies, including student governments at public universities, from voting by secret ballot.
A number of senators, Pokhrel included, suggested earlier in the summer that Adams submit two separate Letters of Appointment, one containing the four new positions and another containing all others. This would have allowed the 26 preexisting roles to be filled earlier in the summer while the four new roles were workshopped for approval.
“We just wanted the controversial parts of this to be separated and let the people that are in the cabinet like finance, like student services, like communications, just go ahead and get approved to start working, because we have no issue with any of the nominees there,” Pokhrel said. “We want them to start working because they do a lot of work over the summer that goes unnoticed… these back-to-school events, all these are run by the cabinets, and their nominees.”
Adams said he did not want to create separate letters because “there were positions that we needed to operate with, and I didn’t want to sacrifice them without real reason for it.”
Another point of concern was the appointment of Cassidy Stoddart, Adams’ running mate who lost her bid for Vice President, to the role of Chief Advisor. “A lot of the things I’ve heard from the Senate was ‘Cassidy is getting put into a position because this is a replacement of her not getting into the Executive Vice President role,’” Adams said.
Adams denied this notion. “The one nomination we got for the role of Chief Advisor from the Executive Council came from the current Executive Vice President [Ayona Roychowdhury], her former opponent, because of the work that she’s done with her before,” he said.
“When Kyle mentioned the role of Chief Advisor and asked if I thought that Cassidy would be a good choice for it, I said yes,” Roychowdhury told Kaleidoscope. “When [I was] told by Kyle that she was in line for the role, I supported it.”
Pokhrel said in his speech against the confirmation, “The job of the Senate is to best serve the students of UAB firstly. Secondly, it’s to check the power of the Executive Branch. We stopped it in April, but with the fall semester coming up, we need to start working, and the inevitability is that this will probably pass today.”
Pokhrel thanked the Senate and Ayona for “not just being rubber stamps to the Executive [Branch]… I’m excited to finally get to work this year and take meaningful steps toward helping UAB students.”
Adams said USGA wants to move forward from internal issues. “None of us want to be so caught up in internal stuff within USGA that when students ask us, ‘what are we doing for the student body?’ all we can say is having internal battles and wars with one another,” he said.