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November 30, 2009 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 2009-11-30

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Monday, November 30, 2009 - 9A

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Monday, November 30, 2009 - 9A

Years ago, MSA held student body-
wide elections to pick oversight reps.

From Page 1A
The main concerns about the
DPS Oversight Committee involve
the election processes used to select
representatives to serve on the body,
which is comprised of two faculty,
two staff and two student represen-
tatives. Those representatives then
make recommendations regarding
grievances filed against the campus
police.
But widespread negligence - of
internal bylaws and state laws has
recently raised concerns over how
effectively the body can handle that
responsibility.
Though a Michigan statute states
that student representatives to the
DPS Oversight Committee must be
"nominated and elected" by the stu-
dent body, MSA has, in recent years,
appointed student representatives
to fill the positions without a stu-
dent-wide election.
In an MSA meeting Nov. 3, the
assembly voted to approve two new
student representatives to the com-
mittee: LSA junior Hemant Chapar-
ala and Engineering sophomore
Prithvi Murthy.
In a special report earlier this
month, the Daily quoted several
lawyers who said that that nomi-
nation process appears to violate
Michigan's Public Act 120 of 1990,
which states, "The committee shall
be comprised of individuals nomi-
nated and elected by the faculty, stu-
dents, and staff of the institution."
While a nomination process is
used today, interviews with former
MSA officials from the last two
decades reveal that MSA used to
put DPS Oversight Committee can-
didates on ballots in student body-
wide MSA elections.
According to the DPS Oversight
Committee's bylaws, students, fac-
ulty and staff members all have the
right to vote for their own represen-
tative. But sometime in 2000, that
right was waived for students when
MSA began appointing representa-
tives to the committee - dropping
the student-wide election process.
University alum Brian Kight
served as an MSA representative
from 1990 to 1994. When the DPS
Oversight Committee was formed
in 1992, Kight wrote a supplemental
document to the MSA election code
that explained the procedures for
electing students to the committee.

The document stated that two
student representatives and one
alternative would be electetq to the
committee in a student body-wide
election. The alternate was to fill
any vacancies that might occur
throughout the year, and the candi-
dates would be placed on the MSA
winter election ballot.
Kight - who was chair of the
MSA Rules and Elections Commit-
tee at the time - said MSA created
the supplement to make sure stu-
dent representatives on the com-
mittee would in fact be elected by
the students, and not appointed by
the administration.
"We were worried that the Uni-
versity administration would hold its
own elections independent of MSA,
and we were worried that that would
set a bad precedent that student gov-
ernment would lose its autonomy if
thathappened," Kight said.
Kight also explained that MSA
and student groups protested
against the deputization of campus
police officers because they were
concerned officers carrying guns
could potentially shoot students.
Despite the controversy, the Uni-
versity Board of Regents voted to
approve the formation of DPS in a
restricted Access meeting where
protesters could not disrupt pro-
ceedings.
Kight said MSA was torn on how
to handle the situation - with one
party wanting to oppose the police
and the majority of assembly mem-
bers desiring to support them as
long as they listened to students'
concerns.
That's when Kight drafted the
Supplemental Election Code that
was an additional chapter of the
MSA Compiled Code - the consti-
tution that outlines MSA rules and
procedures.
Kight said he wrote the new
provisions because there was some
concern on how MSA would legally
appoint the representatives.
For other University commit-
tees with student representation,
MSA's Campus Governance Com-
mittee nominated candidates, and
the assembly voted to approve them
- a process similar to the one used
today to put representatives on the
oversight committee. But because of
the state law, MSA officials believed
this process wouldn't suffice.
"Looking at Public Act 120, it said

'nominated andelected'sowe deter-
mined that these positions had to be
elected - not appointed through the
normal Campus Governance Com-
mittee appointment process," Kight
said.
Because the law does not state
how vacancies are to be filled, Kight
inserted a provision that called for
an alternate to also be elected. The
alternate would serve a one-year
term and fill any vacancies that
arose during the year.
Today, MSA does not appoint
alternates. As reported in the Nov.
16 Daily report, the lack of alter-
nates presented a problem this year,
when both student representatives
had graduated by May, and the com-
mittee had no student representa-
tion for six months.
According to Kight, the first MSA
elections following the provisions
in 1992 were successful. Candidates
were placed on MSA's paper ballot,
and Kight recalls about six students
running for the position.
"It was definitely competitive,"
he said.
Elected student representatives
to the Oversight Committee could
be traced back to 1999 - in a Daily
article that announced the winners
of the two positions.
According to Matt Nolan, MSA
president from 2001 to 2002, there
was no student body-wide election
in 2000. Nolan added that he was
not aware that the representatives
had been elected in prior years.
University alum Hideki Tsut-
sumi, who served as MSA president
from 2000 to 2001, could not be
reached for comment.
Additionally, the Supplemental
Election Code, or any similar docu-
ment, is no longer part of the MSA
Compiled Code. Kightsaid he thinks
it disappeared at some point when
MSA revised the Compiled Code.
The Compiled Code is revised
about once a month. Mahanti and
2008-2009 MSA President Sabrina
Shingwani said they had not heard
of the Supplemental Election Code.
Mahantisaid election procedures
for the DPS Oversight Committee
are not outlined in MSA's current
Election Code.
Though Mahanti told the Daily
this month that it would be difficult
to organize a student body-wide
election for the Oversight Com-
mittee representatives, Kight said

online voting should make it easy
and cited the printing costs and
logistical challenges of coordinat-
ing paper ballots he dealt with as a
representative nearly 20 years ago.
When Public Act 120 was writ-
ten, Kight said there was a general
consensus that the students would
nominate and elect their peers to
the committee. He added the way
MSA currently handles the election
process by appointing representa-
tives is "absolutely in violation of the
state statue."
"I think the statue is very clear
that these individuals have to be
nominated and elected by the stu-
dents," he said. "When it says that,
it doesn't mean the representative
body of the students. It means the
students."
Kight said he thinks MSA didn't
do a good job of promotingthe posi-
tion over the years and members
had a hard time finding candidates.
"At some point they probably
decided, 'OK we'll appoint these
positions just like we appoint peo-
ple to other committees,' and they
weren't really paying attention to
the fact that Public Act 120 of 1990
requires an election," he said.
In addition to MSA's missteps
regarding the DPS Oversight Com-
mittee, the University's administra-
tion also never acted over the last
decade on the possibly illegal nomi-
nation process MSA has been using.
In an interview this month, Pro-
vost Teresa Sullivan said she did not
know much about the issue and sug-
gested to talk to Mahanti.
"I'mmoreofaninterestedobserv-
er onthis than an active ingredient,"
Sullivan said.
At the University Board of
Regents November meeting, Uni-
versity spokesman Rick Fitzgerald
said the University strongly believes
it is meetingthe requirements of the
law both in writing and in practice.
Kight said he thinks University
administrators have always been
"ambivalent" about the committee
and that they never paid any atten-
tion to the body because they felt
DPS could handle grievances on its
own.
"I really think the University
administration has never been a big
fan of the Oversight Committee and
has kind of downplayed it, ignored
it or at least they haven't really been
concerned about it," Kight said.

In this Oct. 1, 2009 file photo, Elizabeth Smart smiles as she leaves federalcourt.
Hearing today for
abductor in case of
Elizabeth Smart

Court will decide
whether abductor is
competent enough
to stand trial
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - For
the third time since his arrest in
2003, a court will hold a compe-
tency hearing for the man charged
in the 2002 abduction of Elizabeth
Smart.
The 10-day hearing for Brian
David Mitchell begins today in
Utah's U.S. District Court.
U.S. DistrictJudgeDaleKimball
will ultimately decide whether the
56-year-old former street preacher
is competent to stand trial.
It's unclear how long Kimball
will take to issue a ruling. His
decision will determine how the
case will proceed - toward a trial
if Mitchell is competent or an
effort to restore Mitchell's compe-
tency if he is not.
The hearing will be Mitchell's
first in federal court, but it's a
replay of state court proceedings
where Mitchellwas twice deemed
incompetent for trial.
Diagnosed with a rare delusion-
al disorder Mitchell - who sings
hymn incessantly during court
appearances and -once yelled at a
judge to 'repent' - has been pri-
marily held at the Utah State Hos-

pital and has refused treatment.
Last year, a state judge refused
to order forced medication for
Mitchell, saying she was not con-
vinced that anti-psychotic drugs
would restore his competency.
Aself-described prophetofGod,
Mitchell was indicted by a federal
grand jury in 2008 on charges of
kidnapping and unlawful trans-
portation of a minor. A state case,
where he is charged with multiple
felonies, has been held up over the
competency issue.
Smart was just 14 on June 5,
2002, when she was taken from
her home at knifepoint and held
captive for nine months. At an
October hearing, Smart said she
was forced to become Mitchell's
second wife in a religious ceremo-
ny and then raped.
Smart was recovered in March
2003 after motorists saw her
walking a suburban street with
Mitchell and his now-estranged
wife, Wanda Eileen Barzee.
Federal prosecutors contend
Mitchell is faking psychiatric
symptoms in order to avoid prose-
cution - an opinion supported by
a reportby New York forensic psy-
chiatrist Dr. Michael Welner; who
was paid to evaluate Mitchell.
The full 206-page report is
not yet public, but excerpt of it in
court documents show Welner
disputes the findings of previous
evaluations of Mitchell.

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