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January 26, 2023

SGA debates controversy of senatorial overreach in the judicial nomination process

By PARKER HAN | December 3, 2022

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SGA discussed the importance of accountability in senate inactivity in nominating new student justices. 

The Student Government Association (SGA) held its weekly general body meeting (GBM) on Nov. 29 to discuss the judiciary nominations, the Beta X SGA: Reindeer Games Bill, the SGA Communications and Marketing Committee (CMC) Funding Bill and the SGA x Mindfulness Event Funding Bill. 

Judiciary Nominations

Four of the five student justices graduated last spring, and no nominees have been presented in the past six months. Sophomore President Ryan Chou motioned an amendment to the agenda to discuss judiciary nomination in a moderated caucus. The motion was passed unanimously.  

  • Chou independently used social media over the Thanksgiving break to advertise the positions and interviewed seven applicants.
  • Senior Class President JiWon Woo cited ambiguity in the layout methods of the judiciary nomination bylaws while providing additional context to Chou’s action. An initial application was sent out to Hopkins in early September, receiving responses from three applicants by Oct. 3. The executive branch and Woo were each under the impression that the other was responsible for proceeding with the applications due to confusion over the bylaws.
  • Student Body President Breanna Soldatelli added that the SGA was told not to nominate justices over the summer. After discussing the judiciary and SGA with Chief Justice Noam Rotenberg, Soldatelli sent out an email in September to open applications to the student body. The review process was delayed during her illness while the matter was not delegated.
  • Chou defended his action as a last resort that would draw the urgency of the matter to the senate floor. He stressed the necessity to preserve the check and balances of the student government system, expressing concern over previous senatorial inaction. 
  • “We need to be aware of situations like this in the future. This is just one of a very broader list of things that we need be keeping on our minds,” he said. 
  • Chou and Woo recommended that all 10 applications received so far would be automatically considered in a new round of applications.
  • Sophomore Senator Dalhart Dobbs cited concerns over the legitimacy of Chou’s nominees due to the process. “It wasn't through the official channels. It was unconventional and unconstitutional. I think it shouldn't have legitimacy,” he said.
  • Freshman Class Senator Alisa Fedotova recommended amending the bylaws of the judiciary nomination process to prevent future mistakes. 
  • Junior Class Senator Shalala Leny suggested the nondisclosure of application names to limit bias. 
  • Sophomore Class Senator Jackson Morris stated that Chou should recuse himself from the judiciary application process moving forward.
  • A motion to end the moderated caucus was passed.

SGA x Mindfulness Event Funding Bill 

Senator Rachel Huang presented the SGA x Mindfulness Event Funding Bill. The bill plans a drop-in mental health event that would serve as a study break during the reading week. Students will be encouraged to socialize and write down destressing journal entries. Tea, hot chocolate and calming music, as well as journaling prompts, would be provided. The costs of the event are jointly covered by the SGA and JHU Health Promotion and Well-Being.

  • Soldatelli motioned to amend to remove fidget toys from the funding list as it was not listed. The motion passed unanimously.
  • The bill was passed unanimously.

Beta X SGA: Reindeer Games Bill  

Dobbs presented the Beta X SGA: Reindeer Games Bill, which he introduced at the last GBM. The bill endorses a philanthropy event that would feature outdoor game tournaments, with all the proceeds of the prizes going to Black Women Build Baltimore

  • The bill was passed unanimously.

SGA CMC Funding Bill  

Through the SGA CMC Funding Bill, Director of Social Affairs Milton Diaz requested $172 of funding to cover the costs of CMC operations, including the purchasing of printed materials, tape and Canva Pro Subscription.

  • Morris motioned to amend the bill to remove the funding for Canva Pro Subscription.
  • The bill was passed unanimously.

Editor’s Note: The original article has been edited to reflect that Chou advertised the position to all classes over Thanksgiving break and interviewed seven candidates, not six.

The News-Letter regrets these errors.


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