Only a few weeks into her tenure as Student Government Association President (SGA), Kaylee Gibson, junior public relations major, made the bold decision to veto a resolution proposing the expansion of open dorm hours after it had already passed with resounding support from the Student Senate.
To Gibson’s knowledge, it was the first time an SGA president had vetoed a resolution in student senate history. She felt that her intervention was required, however, to ensure students had an adequate chance to voice their opinions before passing it to administration.
“If people felt silenced, I didn’t want that to be the association people have with student senate. It should be a place where they can come and say what they believe,” she said.
The resolution was presented in the first senate of the semester Feb. 10 by David Taylor and Ben Melton, both junior biology majors. Taylor researched open dorm hours at other schools similar to Union and spoken with vice president of student life Brian Carrier, President Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver as well as Lisa Rogers, chairwoman of the board of trustees, before drafting the proposal.
Though the resolution did ultimately pass, senators disagreed over several aspects of it. Taylor said someone had suggested freshmen only have extended open hours on the weekends, but no hours during the week like upperclassmen. This portion of the resolution was debated during senate but ultimately still included in the resolution.
When Gibson met with Carrier for her weekly meeting after senate, she learned he’d received several complaints that everyone’s input on the resolution had not been heard. The complaints alleged that, because of the way it was presented, senators had been under the impression that changing aspects of the resolution would result in administration shooting it down.
“Melton and Taylor kind of said, you know we’re doing this because different people in administration have said that is what they would feel most comfortable with, essentially,” Gibson said. “But the way that was taken by some people in senate was that they should not make any amendments to that part of the bill.”
Gibson also learned that administration wanted resolutions to reflect everything the student body wanted, not only what the student body thought administration would approve of. Based on that, she decided to veto the resolution and give senate another chance to debate it and potentially amend it.
Taylor said the veto was unexpected, and he initially didn’t understand but came to see Gibson’s decision as a wise one.
“I was slightly bewildered when I first heard, but after she, I and Melton met, we were able to discuss why she felt the need to veto the resolution. I definitely believe her veto was justified,” he said. “This way, we have ensured that the resolution that was passed was truly the voice of the senate and the student body.”
Gibson said she was anxious about negative criticism because of the veto, and she received pushback from her SGA All Staff team as well as negative comments on social media. Ultimately though, she decided it was the right decision because of the tone it would set for the rest of her term in office.
“I realized as soon as I decided to go through with the veto that I wasn’t necessarily going to be this beloved SGA president, that I was going to be distinctly different,” she said. “I hope it doesn’t define me, but I know that I can’t be the kind of SGA president that’s just okay with everything…I have a little too much Margaret Thatcher in me.”
At the second senate of the semester two weeks later, Gibson’s veto was upheld. The resolution was passed again with no amendments.