SG president still has shot at BOT seat

Despite it taking nearly two months to certify the Student Government (SG) presidential results, Student Body President Moneer Kheireddine still has the chance to represent the student body on the USF Board of Trustees (BOT). 

A seat on the BOT is reserved for a representative of the student body president from either the Tampa, St. Petersburg or Sarasota-Manatee campus. Current Tampa Student Body President Chris Griffin was elected to the seat last year.

Kheireddine said the election will be Sunday.

“I think getting on the BOT is one of the greatest privileges that a student body president can have,” Kheireddine said. “But we also want to continue to make sure that the growth and the expansion of the other campuses is occurring as well. We want to make sure they feel represented and that they are represented with the BOT.”

There’s only one seat available on the BOT, but Kheireddine said that’s something he’d like to see change and is something he would work toward if elected into the seat.

“One of the biggest things that we want to see and hopefully be able to push for is to ensure that every separate campus can have a member or representative on the BOT,” he said. “It’s one of the biggest things we’re hoping to accomplish in the next year or at least take steps toward. Each individual campus has needs and should be equally represented.”

Kheireddine and Vice President Shaquille Kent were sworn in 30 minutes after the Dean of Students, Danielle McDonald, overturned the ticket’s disqualification on Friday.

The full Senate Chambers erupted in cheers as Kheireddine made his way to the front of the Chambers where he set his hand on the SG constitution and nervously stumbled over the oath of office.

“I do hereby affirm to hold the office of student body president, to abide by the student body constitution, to uphold the statutes incorporated therein, to represent the student body to the best of my ability,” he repeated after Chief Justice Milton Llinas.

The ceremony came seven weeks after the announcement that the ticket won with 5,285 votes, or 200 more than were cast in total last year. A total of 29 grievances were then filed between the two tickets.

“One of our biggest things that we wanted to make sure that we did is to carry ourselves with strong weight and know that we wanted to build a movement among positive and doing things differently than they’ve been done in the past,” Kheireddine said. “We want to make sure we’re not only saying that, but we’re living that through our actions.

“We didn’t want (the election) to be another petty, shady war among different candidates. Keeping that through the whole grievance process was very hard, it was very tough. Kent and I are human, we were very upset, we were sad, we were worried, we didn’t know what was going on. But we stuck to putting a smile on our face, keeping out chins up and making sure we represented ourselves well.”

After the ticket was disqualified by a ruling issued by the SG Supreme Court on April 12, the appeal moved to McDonald. In his appeal, Kheireddine argued a bias within the court, the statute’s vagueness and witness tampering.

Kheireddine’s opponent, Ryan Soscia, has accepted McDonald’s ruling. 

“I respect Dean McDonald’s decision and reasoning,” Soscia said. “This election process has been stressful and ultimately detrimental to Student Government’s image. It will be a long recovery process for all of us.”

The Kheireddine-Kent ticket was found in violation of “abuse of official capacity of their position (if employee of the university) for their own personal gain” when campaign volunteer Dika Ezevillo wore his nametag from his job at Career Services while campaigning. The Court voted unanimously that this was a violation of the statute regardless of whether his actions swayed voters.

However, in her decision of the appeal, McDonald found an error in due process by the Court using “standard of availability” to come to its decision. Essentially, the Court stated that it was an abuse of official capacity because the nametag was an item not all students campaigning had access to.

McDonald stated that there is no definition of “abuse of official capacity” within SG bylaws and therefore the Court overstepped its jurisdiction by creating a standard “that the parties could not predict would be a violation of this statute.”

McDonald dismissed the claims of bias of Llinas for being difficult to prove based on student leaders knowing each other and developing friendships. She also dismissed Kheireddine’s claim of witness tampering because the witness who claimed to have been bribed wasn’t called to testify, and it cannot be assumed that those who did were bribed.

The full inauguration ceremony is expected to be Friday with the time and location yet to be announced.

“I’m simply proud. Proud of the team behind us, proud of the work all of us put in, proud of how we carried ourselves and proud of the vision Kent and I were able to create alongside the student body,” Kheireddine said. “Despite how cliché this sounds, it’s a dream come true. I’m relieved, excited and ready for a new year with new beginnings for Student Government and USF as a whole.”