New amendment bars student from candidacy: Recent change to bylaws limits ballot eligibility

Former Lafayette College Student Government representative Sohrab Pasikhani ‘18 planned to be on the ballot for representative this week. That plan changed.

On Monday, he said he was informed of an amendment to student government’s bylaws passed last Friday, that requires anyone “who has been impeached/asked to resign” to meet with student government, according to the minutes from the Nov. 2 meeting.

The amendment gives student government the ability to vote on whether to put that person on the ballot after the meeting. Pasikhani was removed from the ballot sent out to students on Monday for this reason.

Pasikhani was asked to resign from student government at the end of last semester. He and student government President Aaron Little ‘16 said that he was asked to leave because he missed too many meetings. Little added that Pasikhani used his position to communicate with administrators on student government’s behalf, when it was not.

Before the amendment to the bylaws had passed, Little asked Pasikhani on Thursday Nov. 5 to appear in front of student government at their regular Monday meeting on Nov. 9. Little said he was confident that the amendment would pass, so he told Pasikhani to come before student government early so he would have time to prepare.

Little said he made the proposed amendment clear to Pasikhani at this time, but Pasikhani said he was unaware of the implications of the amendment until he received an email from Little notifying him that he would not be on the ballot after the Monday meeting.

Dean of Students and advisor to student government Paul McLoughlin, who was at Monday’s meeting, said representatives were “respectful” in questioning Pasikhani and their discussion on whether or not to let Pasikhani on the ballot after Pasikhani left. After there was some discussion, McLoughlin said, Little called a blind vote and the majority voted not to let Pasikhani on the ballot.

Little then sent an email to Pasikhani explaining the decision, adding that he could be an assistant representative, who cannot vote in general body meetings. Pasikhani received another email from Little, after the ballot was sent to the student body, that explained that student government amended their bylaws so they could remove students who had been asked to resign from the ballot.

Before this amendment was passed, all students were eligible to run for student government as long as they were not on “academic or disciplinary probation,” according to student government’s bylaws. However, Little wrote in an email to The Lafayette, he feels students who were asked to leave would not run again.

“Generally, when we ask people to leave, there’s the unspoken implication that they can’t run again,” he wrote.

Pasikhani was surprised to find out that student government had the power to prevent anyone from running in the election. He said the amendment to the bylaws “goes against the very moral code and ethical code of the school.”

According to Chair of Representation Bilal Akbar ‘18, every member of student government was aware of Pasikhani’s intentions to run for office when they voted on the amendment, even though he had not submitted his candidacy yet.

“We actually made this decision before he actually submitted his candidacy because we were aware that Sohrab was interested in running, and because we had no precedent for it, we had to make a decision as a body to decide what we would do in such a case,” Akbar said.

Akbar added that in the initial discussion of the motion, some student government members wanted to remove Pasikhani from the ballot without talking to him.

Little said they were unaware of whether or not Pasikhani would run, but they did not want it as a possibility. He also added that anyone who resigned from student government would fall under this law, and that “at least” five students on campus would fall under this umbrella.

Five students left student government at the end of last semester and the beginning of this semester, including Pasikhani. Out of the five, Pasikhani is the only one who was asked to leave—the others made a personal choice to resign. The language of the motion indicated that it applied only to members who were impeached or forced to resign, according to the meeting’s minutes.

Little wrote in an email to The Lafayette that there is a “clerical mistake” in the minutes, and the amendment should apply to all members of student government who have resigned, not just those who have been impeached or asked to resign.

In the email Little sent to Pasikhani explaining the amendment to the bylaws and quoting the Nov. 2 minutes, there was no mention of a “clerical mistake,” according to emails forwarded to The Lafayette.

The amendment, Little said, will only last until the end of his term at the end of the semester, and he has no intention of making it permanent, so that the rule applies to future elections. He wants to leave decisions about who should be allowed to run in elections up to members of student government after he leaves, he said.

Little moved to amend the bylaws on Monday, Nov. 2, and in accordance with regulation, student government only voted on it four days afterwards, when it was passed.

Pasikhani said he will continue fighting this amendment.

“I know it’s unjust and I know that I’m going to fight through it,” he said. Pasikhani is organizing a petition online to collect names in support of his position.

Ian Morse ’17 and Nirupa Basnet ’17 contributed reporting.

About William Gordon

William Gordon '17 is the editor-in-chief of The Lafayette. He writes about student government, law, financial aid and music. He's studying English and government & law with a minor in economics.

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