Students returned to campus for the spring semester to learn that Student Government Association (SGA) President Hermina Garic and Vice President Kendal Santiago both resigned from their respective positions.
After serving during the fall semester, SGA’s top leaders chose to resign together after being notified by college officials in a meeting on Monday, Jan. 14, that Santiago would have to vacate her role as vice president over concerns that her grades did not meet the minimum GPA requirement for her position as set under the Utica College SGA Constitution, the pair confirmed to The Tangerine.
Under Section 2 of SGA’s constitution, the vice president, who is appointed by the elected president, must “possess a 2.7 cumulative GPA and have been a student at Utica College for at least two semesters.”
Despite meeting all requirements to continue serving as president, Garic chose to resign in solidarity with her vice president as both felt more could have been done by SGA and administration officials to assist Santiago academically before ultimately advising her that she could no longer keep her position.
“If you are going to have student leaders who succeed here, then why not offer them support?” Garic said. “She’s been an advocate for students, she’s been a leader. She’s literally been my vice president, side by side. We could’ve supported Kendal, but there was no talk of that.”
Like Garic, Santiago also advocated for academic assistance after learning that her GPA, which she said fell just short of the required 2.7 mark, did not meet the constitution’s standards.
“There’s more things to focus on than a GPA,” Santiago said. “There’s more important things [on campus] that need to be fixed than something as silly as this.”
Now without their governing positions, Garic and Santiago, both seniors, said they will continue to serve and advocate for the student body.
“We’re going to stand up and continue to be honest about what’s going on,” Garic said. “We’re going to make sure that students’ voices continue to be heard. We can be leaders without a title.”
SGA faculty advisor Lauryn Moore could not speak to any specific student’s GPAs due to privacy concerns, but she emphasized that each member of SGA’s executive board must meet the qualifications set under the constitution.
“My personal feelings about the GPA requirement don’t come into play here; I am strictly going by the constitution,” Moore said. “We can’t pick and choose when we follow the constitution and when we can’t.”
While she expressed respect for the “amazing things” that Garic and Santiago accomplished during their tenures, Moore explained that the current iteration of the SGA constitution does not require or specify that academic assistance be given after it becomes apparent that an executive board member is no longer meeting specific GPA requirements.
“Under each role of executive board are qualifications that students need to meet per our constitution,” she said. “And it’s really important for me and the leaders of student government that every single position on SGA fulfills those qualifications.”
In place of Garic, Chief Justice Sania Safdar was appointed interim president, per SGA constitution guidelines, while the governing body held a special election to choose its next full-time president.
“In the beginning, there was a little bit of confusion for student leaders [once they became aware that Garic and Santiago resigned],” Safdar said. “But it’s been business as usual, so we’re just moving forward from the resignations and will continue the plans we had from last semester.”
On Jan. 22, a week after the resignations of both Garic and Santiago, senior Lukus Becker has been named SGA’s full-time president after running unopposed. Per procedures laid out in the SGA constitution, only student senators were able to vote in the election.
“I knew the next leader to step up from here would need to be confident in order to run a very successful spring semester,” Becker said. “Having experience in three other organizations as president, I was ready to embrace this opportunity with determination and foresight.”