The exclusion of three transfer students from standing for Student Government prompted an extraordinary meeting of the SG supreme court Tuesday.
The first sitting of the SG supreme court in three years ruled against a motion for a change in interpretation of the SG statute regarding the minimum 2.0 USF grade point average required for students seeking election as SG senators. The ruling means that the three students are still ruled out from participating in the forthcoming SG elections.
The judicial branch of SG, donned in black robes, heard a motion brought by Michael Berman, senator for the College of Business and Administration. Berman’s motion called for a ruling on the interpretation of the SG Constitution, Article III, Section IV, Paragraph II, which states that students seeking election must satisfy the minimum 2.0 USF GPA. Berman said that the GPA should be a cumulative, incorporating credits from other institutions. David Armstrong, SG business manager, who made the decision to exclude the three students, spoke in favor of the existing interpretation.
Following the hearing, the SG supreme court considered the case in private for 45 minutes before ruling, in a unanimous vote, to uphold the decision taken by Armstrong to exclude the three students from standing in the election. Chief justice Dustin Sachs said the court had reached its decision based upon what it believes constitutes a “USF GPA.”
Berman said three students, who had applied to stand in the forthcoming SG elections, were informed by Armstrong on March 19 that their current GPA was below the minimum required by the SG statute. Berman said he was representing two of the three students who, if their GPA from their previous universities was taken into consideration, exceeded the minimum eligibility requirement.
Berman said that as USF recognized credit hours from other institutions, it was appropriate for SG to follow suit.
“It is my contention that the interpretation shouldn’t solely rely on institutional GPA,” Berman said.
“It should rely on a cumulative GPA, including credit hours that the university itself has accepted.”
Berman said the current interpretation of the SG statutes discriminates against transfer students, as they had to satisfy SG senator eligibility GPA criteria while studying upper level courses.
“Student Government is meant for all students – not solely those educated in this state. Over 50 percent of this campus are transfer students,” Berman said.
One justice asked Berman whether students with such a low GPA would be able to participate in SG.
Berman said many students on campus were experiencing similar academic difficulties, and, therefore, the two students in question typified a sizeable proportion of the student population.
“Unfortunately, there are a lot of students on campus at this moment with similar GPAs,” Berman said. “I guess in a way (the two students) are somewhat representative of those students.”Armstrong said that as a professional staff member of the university, and, as agreed in the letter he received from Sachs, it would not be appropriate for him to submit to the jurisdiction of the court.
Sachs said the court had asked Armstrong to attend the hearing, as he was directly responsible for implementing the procedure to exclude ineligible students.
“He knows firsthand the procedures that were followed,” Sachs said.
Armstrong said the SG statute was unambiguous regarding the criteria for student eligibility in SG elections.
“It states specifically that a student must have a USF GPA of 2.0 or better in order to be involved in Student Government, specifically Student Government senate and executive,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong said that the SG statute was generally consistent with university policy.
“The registrar’s office and the undergraduate catalog consider the USF GPA to be the only GPA that counts for your academic status,” Armstrong said. “I used that as part of my interpretation of the statutes.”
Berman said the SG supreme court’s decision was unjust for transfer students.
“It is unfortunate that ‘native’ USF students can use their general education courses to qualify for SG and that transfer students cannot,” Berman said.
- Contact Chris O’Donnellat firstname.lastname@example.org