With the end of 2016, the Student Government Association Graduate Vice President also ended his tenure as the representative of the graduate student population. Kevin Koestler left Texas Tech University and created a vacancy within SGA that had to be filled.
Under Article 3 Section 4.5 of the SGA Constitution, when a vacancy occurs in any of the vice presidential offices, the executive office is granted the power to appoint a replacement to that office pending a two-thirds confirmation vote from the senate.
Ben Sharp, Student Body President, said Koestler got his dream job and was given an ultimatum from his new employer about a start date, which was why he had to leave in the middle of his term.
“So, it was pretty much like ‘this is my career for the rest of my life and a company I’ve always wanted to work for’” Sharp said of Koestler on his new job. “So, we wish him the best of luck and we definitely miss him, but understand why he left.”
When pondering how to fill Koestler’s empty seat, Sharp said his biggest concern was making sure he did what was fair and objective. He said he wanted the absolute best person to represent the graduate student population.
He said he made the decision to create a committee that would obtain applications and do an interview process of potential candidates. To make sure it was fair, he said he was in no way part of that committee, but relied on the director of SGA to create a committee and make a recommendation.
“So, I asked Michael Gunn to do it and so he picked people who had experience with student government, who had worked with us,” Sharp said. “And then, also, he chose people who had gone to grad school at Tech, at least for the most part, primarily.”
One of the applications the committee received had the name of Chelsea Clark on it.
Clark, a graduate senator in SGA, said she was the runner-up in the initial election for Graduate Vice President. As for that election itself, she said it is was a pretty intensive process.
“I [worked] on the campaign for four and a half months and mainly what I had to do was just to work with the executive team on preparing our campaign,” Clark said. “And while that is a really simple way to put it, it took a lot of effort.”
She said the campaign was like a full time job and even probably comparable to overtime at a job. Clark explained they did a lot on their own time as well, like strategizing and deciding what the next moves would be. She said, in total, she spent hundreds of hours working on her campaign.
She said she initially was made aware of the situation by email when Sharp notified the rest of the senators, but she also received a call from him personally telling her of the decision to use an application process.
“I called her and informed her of the decision and that was as far as the conversation went,” Sharp said. “She is a graduate senator currently and so she was involved in SGA in that way, but, however, the process was what it was.”
Clark said the call from Sharp did not necessarily feel genuine and she had assumed as runner-up to the position that she would have gotten some input. She said, in the past, she heard it was common to reach out to the next person who ran when a vacancy occurred.
“I think that was just kind of a move to, you know, I don’t know, save face,” Clark said. “And so I just wish he would have actually approached me and talked about it.”
Clark said she thought the whole process was unnecessary and she thought it could have been done much faster if she had just been involved in the decision.
As for the conclusion to the whole ordeal, Sharp said the committee recommended Bryce White for the next Graduate Vice President and he decided to follow that recommendation and propose this name to the senate for confirmation.
White said, upon hearing about Koestler’s impending departure, he asked Sharp for information on the application process and decided to throw his hat in the ring. So far, he said he is enjoying the new position.
“I really love this job,” White said. “The people in the SGA Office have been very friendly and helpful in getting me acquainted to this position.”
He said it is a steep learning curve, but the team has made it an easy transition. As for Clark, she said it is the best way it could have turned out if she was not going to be consulted on the situation.
“Bryce and I work very well together,” Clark said. “He is doing an amazing job.”