Following weeks of controversy over the constitutionality of the appointment of Emily Serwer ’16 as Vice President for Student Organizations, Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) passed an amendment to its bylaws Wednesday night that codified recess appointments like Serwer’s. 

Over the past month, Senior Class President Robo Tavel ’16, head of the A Cappella Council Max Middleton ’16 and former Vice President for Student Affairs Justin Pearson ’17 all claimed the appointment was unethical and unconstitutional. On Wednesday, Pearson spoke to oppose the new bylaw amendment.

“What’s happening with this clarification is that the president has decided to take action, create a rule that did not exist, and is now asking that that rule go into effect after doing it illegally,” said Pearson. 

The position of Vice President for Student Organizations was left vacant after Wylie Mao ’18 resigned from the College over the summer—the first time a resignation had taken place not during the academic year. 

BSG bylaws stipulate that “when there is a vacancy in the Executive Committee, the Assembly shall elect one of its members to fill the vacancy” (IV, A, iii). However, the Assembly is not in session over the summer. 

The new proposed amendment explicitly allows the Executive Committee to appoint Interim Vice Presidents during the summer in cases of summer resignations, whereas the existing constitution is ambiguous. A “confirmation clause,” according to BSG President Danny Mejia-Cruz ’16, would then allow the Interim Vice President to continue in their position if elected by a 4/5 majority vote of BSG Assembly—not just the Executive Committee. 

Mejia-Cruz discussed the vacancy with the Offices of Student Activities and Student Affairs, as well as with Vice President for Student Government Affairs Michelle Kruk ’16, over the summer. Mejia-Cruz then proposed candidates to the Executive Committee. A member of the BSG Assembly was first asked to fill the position before Serwer, but declined. 

Meija-Cruz asserted that he was not bound to appoint someone already on BSG. Pearson, Middleton and Tavel disagreed. 

“Was there a vacancy in the Executive Committee? Yes. Was the General Assembly supposed to vote to fill the vacancy? Yes. Did they have the opportunity? No,” said Pearson. 

Pearson first objected to Serwer’s appointment at the BSG’s October 21 meeting on the same day as a scheduled vote to allow her to remain in her position for the rest of the academic year. This delayed Serwer’s election until November 4. 

Tavel drew attention to Serwer and Mejia-Cruz’s joint campaign last year. 

“What didn’t smell right was that the person who they choose to appoint was the person who happened to be on the ticket with [Mejia-Cruz] when he ran for BSG president,” said Tavel, who ran unsuccessfully against Mejia-Cruz for president. 

While most BSG positions are filled through elections, BSG appoints several at-large representatives each year. However, because these at-large positions are not internal, Tavel differentiated between them and Serwer’s position. 

“The difference with the at-large positions is that there’s a school-wide email sent out, the BSG reads each of the candidate’s applications, interviews each candidate,” Tavel said. “In this situation there was no application. It was basically the BSG deciding that Emily Serwer was the best candidate for this job and—whether or not she is the best person for the job—I think there should have been opportunities for others to throw their names in the hat.”
According to Arindam Jurakhan ’17, Entertainment Board representative and member of the Student Organization Oversight Committee, Mejia-Cruz “wasn’t the person who put out Emily’s name in the process.”

“Student government tries to be transparent because of how things look to the outside,” Jurakhan said. “Emily was Danny’s running mate so there seems like there was some sort of bias there in terms of choosing who would choose the position, but they’ve explained the whole Executive Committee put out several people… The Executive Committee doesn’t have an was more of a democratic appointment than it seems to be.”

Mejia-Cruz also defended the appointment. 

“I was not about to appoint another man on to the Executive Committee, because we had one woman at the time and that’s not reflective of the student body,” Mejia-Cruz said. “We finally decided on Emily and it was because she’s been on the assembly before, she had shown interest by running and, yes, she was my running mate.”

Aside from running alongside Mejia-Cruz last spring, Serwer has served as the BSG Director of Programming for the past two years, working closely with the Executive Committee. She served in the position of VP for Student Organizations for the first few weeks of school.
The Assembly convened a few weeks ago to vote on the proposal to have the official vote for the VP for Student Organizations. This proposal, which passed, allowed for the election of the position.

Jurakhan was one of the three assembly members who either voted in the negative or abstained.

“I feel like even though it makes logical sense to have this happen, given the rules that are in place there should be some sort of contention in it,” said Jurakhan. “I wanted the amendment of the bylaws to happen before the election, because it just seems better. Retroactive [explanation] seems just as fine, [but] kind of conspicuous.”

The proposal for the election passed, allowing the permanent position to be filled sooner rather than wait the two weeks necessary for a proposal for an amendment to the bylaws to pass. At-large representative Ben Painter ’19 ran against Serwer.

“Since there were some people, especially in the public, that brought up [the issue], I just thought she shouldn’t have ran uncontested, even though I thought that she would do a better job because she’s super competent,” said Painter. “I think that everyone thought it was best for the student body for Emily to stay in [the position], including myself.”

Serwer will remain in the position for the rest of the year. The preliminary vote on the amendment is set for next Wednesday, with the final vote following Thanksgiving.