Although Oswego State students voted for next year’s Student Association president in the beginning of March, the result still has not been released.
Senator Baldwin Lawson and current President Omar van Reenen ran against each other in the race for president during the next academic year, but due to a grievance filed to the SA supreme court against the whole presidential election, the court is withholding certifying the outcome.
van Reenen announced to SA that he has decided to step down from the election to continue his position as president. Lawson did not comment, so his intentions are unknown while the grievance is reviewed.
“I have decided to rescind my candidacy from the Student Association election,” van Reenen said. “I believe this is best for the organization to step aside as the courts carry out the investigative process with those that are involved.”
The grievance filed was in response to campaign violations taken on Election Day when students voted on the Laker Life website for president, vice president and a referendum on plastic cup use. It questions whether election law was violated during this time. The court is investigating the parties involved in the alleged violation.
According to the SA bylaws Election Law, “There shall be no campaigning or campaign publicity material within 20 feet of a polling site during the day of an election. … It shall be the responsibility of official candidates to guarantee that all campaign publicity material has been removed from the polling site and the surrounding 20 feet.”
The official polling site was located outside Marano Campus Center, room 132. SA provided laptops for students to vote on Laker Life. Students could vote anywhere using the Laker Life website.
The grievance is in the process of being reviewed by the court and has yet to set a date for the hearing. Depending on the court’s decision during the hearing, a trial of the accused parties could result, according to Chief Justice Brian Monahan.
“I know time is not on our side,” Monahan said. “We are looking to have this hearing as soon as possible and, if it goes to a trial, as soon as possible as well. If we go to that trial phase, there needs to be enough time between for both sides to prepare their cases.”
While the court will not confirm the results of president, current Director of Civic Engagement and Legislative Affairs Takeena Strachan, who ran unopposed, will be next year’s vice president and a referendum on plastic cup use in the dining halls passed.
Should the court prevent Lawson from becoming president, the line of succession would lead to the vice president stepping up to president, according to the SA bylaws. The court could also make a different decision as to how to go forward.
“There are things that I’ve seen that need to be changed on campus and from what I’ve tried to push, just through my agenda as a director through the off-campus housing fair, making sure off-campus students aren’t being put off, voter registration,” Strachan said. “As long as you set yourself up, it’s possible to make change.”
In anticipation of her increased duties as vice president, Strachan has prepared by stepping down from other extracurriculars. Whether as vice president or president, she said she hopes to make the small changes on campus necessary to keep comfortability in constant motion.
Strachan said she plans to work toward making sure every textbook is available in the course reserves of Penfield Library, provide more vegan, vegetarian and non-pork options in the dining halls, allow clubs and organizations to achieve more awareness by students, build the SA website and social media presence and get a representative from each club and organization to sit in on SA meetings twice a month.
While van Reenen is no longer in the running for another term as president, he said he is now focused on finishing the promises he made to the student body in the form of his Laker justice agenda.
“I’m focused on completing my current term and making sure that we use this last month to accelerate all the great things we’ve done on campus,” van Reenen said. “I think it’s best for the organization if I pass on the torch for someone else and support new leadership for the organization. I believe I’ve served to the best of my capabilities.”
Before the end of the semester, he said he wants to work to extend the hours at Penfield Library, change traditional bathroom signs to universal ones, renegotiate the school’s contract with the Centro bus system, expand the career fair to benefit more international students and bring to SUNY SA proposals to make the Period Act, University Police body camera use and decreased plastic use to every SUNY school.
Although it was canceled this week due to too few senators planning to attend, Student Association will continue business as usual while the investigation is conducted.
Photos by Maria Pericozzi | The Oswegonian