Last night, the Student Assembly (SA) voted 32-0 with two abstentions to confirm Connor Bourff, vice president of Student Initiatives (VPSI) and A&S ’15, as the new executive vice president (EVP) of UGBC. He replaces Chris Marchese, A&S ’15, who stepped down from the position last week after being compelled to do so by the Office of Student Involvement (OSI) because he was no longer in good standing with the University after a conduct violation.
After updates from the committee chairs, Mike Rosella, president pro tempore of the Student Assembly and A&S ’15, called the meeting into open forum. Olivia Hussey, chair of the Campus Climate Committee and A&S ’17, made a motion to confirm Bourff as EVP and to reevaluate Marchese for the role of EVP at the beginning of the second semester, which was seconded by several senators.
As she could not be present, UGBC president Nanci Fiore-Chettiar, A&S ’15, sent a letter that was read aloud. In the letter, she offered an apology for how the Executive Council (EC) had handled Bourff’s appointment and set forth a plan for changes to the Constitution to prevent such a mistake from happening again.
“I know that there is a lot of hurt right now in this organization, and I can promise you that I will continue to do everything in my power to heal that hurt,” Fiore-Chettiar’s letter read. “In order for me to do that, and in order for this organization to get back to planning events and initiatives, and working on policy change, we need to decide—together—to move forward. I truly believe that the best way to do that is to vote yes to Connor tonight, knowing that there will be a re-evaluation of Chris by Executive Council in conjunction with administrators in the Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs, and a chance for him to return the second week in January.”
After Fiore-Chettiar’s letter was read, a letter in support of Bourff from Lucas Levine, senator, manager in SI, and A&S ’15, and Cassidy Gallegos, coordinator in SI and LSOE ’16, was read.
On behalf of GLC, Andrew Engber, chair of GLC and A&S ’15, announced his support of Bourff for EVP, citing his strength as a GLBTQ ally.
When Rosella closed the conversation to members of SA, most of the executive branch left the meeting, and the senators began discussing the confirmation among themselves. Several senators asked questions about constitutionality and process, both of the vote that they were taking then and of the role of SA in the reevaluation of Marchese next semester. Isaac Akers, chair of the Rules Committee and A&S ’16, answered these questions and satisfied the concerned senators.
Although most of the senators who gave speeches during the debate spoke unqualifiedly in favor of Bourff, there were a few who—while supporting him—expressed frustration with how the EC had handled the matter and how the confirmation was presented to SA. Those senators said that they felt like they were being pressured to confirm Bourff for the sake of “moving forward” and “to prevent gridlock.”
“Everyone is saying, ‘we need Connor for progress, to push our legislation through. We can’t have gridlock in the [SA],’” said Nikhil Kanitkar, senator and CSOM ’17. “Why? Yeah, Connor has great experience in SI, but why not someone from SA? … We need to ask questions. Is progress really necessary? The reason why we have disagreements and why there may be gridlock is because we have different discussions and different opinions.”
The concern over Bourff’s experience stems from the fact that, as VPSI, Bourff has had no experience within SA, which Bourff acknowledged. Bourff did say, however, that he has collaborated closely with many senators while working on SI projects.
In response to discontent over the exclusion of SA, Akers said that, with the confirmation hearing it was having, EC had given them the same exercise of their prerogative to give “advice and approval” to executive nominees. Recognizing the legitimacy of senators’ displeasure over the process, he said that SA should leave that past behind them because of Fiore-Chettiar’s apology and confirm Bourff because he was the best person for the job.
After a short discussion about how the Rules Committee was going to address the issue of line of succession, Rosella closed the debate and held a roll call vote that confirmed Bourff as the new EVP, effective immediately.
With Bourff’s appointment as EVP, his old position of VPSI is currently vacant. Fiore-Chettiar and Bourff have announced no plans to appoint a new VPSI at this time. The department will be run by the three managers—Levine, Siobhan Kelly, A&S ’15, and Michael Padulsky, LSOE ’15. Kelly and Padulsky said that they were confident that the Bourff’s absence would not halt the plans the department has in place for the rest of the semester.
“I am very excited that the Student Assembly takes its responsibilities and duties seriously as written in the Constitution,” Bourff said after the meeting ended. “I’m really excited to move forward as executive vice president and president of the Student Assembly, and I look forward to getting right back to work when we get back from Thanksgiving break.”
Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Editor