Chris Jordan

We started this semester with a close examination of President Kori Rady and Vice President Taylor Strickland’s platform points and goals for their administration. Since their terms had begun in April, we evaluated their progress and also looked to establish a conversation on their actions so that they could be held accountable throughout their tenure.

Now, as the semester winds down, we return to that theme and once again assess their successes, failures and chances of notching a few extra wins next semester:

Perhaps the signal achievement of Rady and Strickland’s year in office will be the opening of the Flawn Academic Center 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This long-frustrated goal of a student named Alexander Dickey was taken up by Rady and forwarded to the Student Government Assembly and administrators. At the time, we lobbied for this change and believe that it will deliver a great deal of good to students.

Rady and Strickland also won big with their successful implementation of Safe Ride, a late-night car service that ferries students home to select areas from their weekend revelry downtown. As the Texan reported in August, the program got off to a slightly bumpy start as the contract with uRide, the company that provides the service, was not signed in time for the originally desired start date of the first week of school. Around the same time, uRide 24-5, which since October of last year has powered a late-night ride-home service from the Perry Castañeda Library, was expanded to West Campus.

The duo have also won chits with the student body by their support of embattled University President William Powers Jr. over the summer as well as their work toward extending Thanksgiving break to the Wednesday of that week.

Unfortunately, however, the team’s good works have, to a certain extent, been drowned out by an intermittent racket of political dramas.

We saw this most recently in the scuttled attempt to impeach Chief of Staff Chris Jordan. Such a move would have done more harm than good and, although apparently popular among a majority of Student Government Assembly members, was clearly a demonstration of political heft and ill-will on the part of certain Jordan detractors. The charges laid against him, while unflattering, do not amount to anything impeachable in our eyes.

One of those charges is his supposed complicity in the “cover-up,” as some have called it, of the internal and external appointees’ interview notes. Previous Student Government internal rules required that they be disclosed to the Assembly, but in August, the UT Office of Legal Affairs determined that releasing them would violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. This requirement has thus been removed from the new governing documents, which were adopted earlier this month. Whether Jordan should have released the notes remains a point of contention, but given the decision by the University’s lawyers, it is clear he had good reason to be concerned about the propriety of such an action.

That does not absolve Jordan of all blame, however. There are many areas in which his behavior could stand to improve next semester. First of all, he absolutely must improve his tone of communication with certain members of the Assembly and the student body. Politics can at times devolve into a blood sport, but Jordan can’t let his own personal animosity toward certain people affect his everyday business interactions with them. Not only does it lower the tone of the body he represents, but it also poisons the atmosphere.

Another issue, not mentioned in the articles of impeachment, is Rady’s likely inadvertent release of a number of internal and external appointee candidates’ GPAs by not blacking them out on their resumes, which were released to the media. If Jordan was erring on the side of caution, then Rady erred on the side of recklessness, a much worse crime than the former.

Rady and Strickland have a great opportunity to finish out their terms strong next semester. They will finally have the chance to enact certain state legislative goals that will really be able to gain steam in January. Some of these include their desire for a state-approved student ID that could be used at the polls as well as, more generally, a more robust presence for Invest in Texas, a nonpartisan campaign designed to advocate on behalf of UT students and students at other institutions of higher education across the state.

Next semester, Rady and Strickland should try to move on from the drama of the past and focus solely on doing substantial good for the student body.  

In this podcast, Anthony Green and Madlin Mekelburg discuss the week in news including Student Government representatives calling for the removal of SG chief of staff Chris Jordan, criminal trespassing rates on the UT campus during winter months and Senate of College Council’s formation of The Transfer Student Ad-Hoc Committee. 

You can catch the podcast live every Friday at 3:30 p.m. on KVRX 91.7FM and online at kvrx.org 

In this week's editorial podcast, Associate Editors Noah M. Horwitz and Amanda Voeller discuss President Barack Obama's recent executive order regrading immigration, Leticia Van de Putte's announcement of her San Antonio mayoral campaign and impeachment articles Student Government drafted against its Chief of Staff Chris Jordan.

Photo Credit: Mariana Munoz | Daily Texan Staff

After a group of Student Government representatives sought his removal, Chris Jordan, SG chief of staff, will be monitored by assembly members for compliance with SG policy and behavior.

At the SG meeting Tuesday, Jessica Sherman, external affairs committee chair, announced that there would be a new code of conduct and expectations implemented as a zero-tolerance policy to address the responsibilities and behavior of an executive member. 

The announcement came after members of the assembly attempted to remove Jordan from office. A draft of a document, titled “In Support of Chris Jordan’s Removal From Office,” called for his removal, listing reasons behind the assembly’s decision. According to Cameron Crane, College of Natural Sciences representative, the anonymously written document was supported by over 20 assembly members and was intended for internal sharing. Currently, no formal document is required to remove an individual from an appointment.

According to Crane, who said he did not contribute to the document, assembly members had been sharing and contributing to it over the past week. 

The document outlines claims of Jordan’s alleged misconduct, which include Jordan’s supposed failure to release interview notes for external and internal positions in April. The document claims his actions were intentional and that he was aware of the rules requiring the notes to be released. 

According to the document, Jordan has also “exhibited patterns of bullying and physical aggression.” In addition, it stated Jordan failed to communicate with his agency directors and other UT-related entities, claiming he did not file impact reports and poorly handled a proposed Austin City Council debate.

“I don’t think that he has been doing the duties outlined for his position,” Austin Ferguson, College of Fine Arts representative, said in an email. “His lack of transparency and initiative in ensuring that communication is upheld has been the thing that I have picked up on the most. This, in turn, has created some tension between the various branches.”

Jordan’s biggest concern, he said, is the behavioral accusations made against him, including a claim that he shoved Sergio Cavazos, College of Liberal Arts representative, at last week’s meeting. As a result, he notified the Office of the Dean of Students about the document.

“I want to feel safe and feel that I have the opportunity to defend myself because some of this is constructive criticism, and I’d be happy to sit down and talk about it, and we can go down the list, but some of it is just not true,” Jordan said.  

Members of the executive board and the assembly discussed the accusations with Jordan before Tuesday’s SG meeting. Crane — who was present at the meeting, along with Cavazos and Tanner Long, also a College of Liberal Arts representative — said the group decided to implement the code of conduct announced at the meeting once Jordan left. Crane said this compromise would best represent the assembly’s concerns and suggestions as a whole.

According to the assembly board, a group of six SG representatives that speak for the assembly — Braydon Jones, Melysa Barth, Jamie Nalley, Sherman, Cavazos, Chandler Foster and Shannon Geison — communication has been their biggest problem with Jordan this year.

“For the most part, the legislative branch has no knowledge of what agencies are doing internally and externally,” the board said in an email sent by Geison. “[Jordan] can absolutely fix it by apologizing and sharing how he plans to move forward.”

SG President Kori Rady said he stopped Jordan’s removal prior to Tuesday’s meeting in favor of the compromise announced at the meeting. Rady would like to see this code applied to other SG members, not just Jordan.

“I’m the leader of the organization,” Rady said. “And when I see that there is misinformation [and] miscommunication, it is my job to connect the different parties who are not aligned and [make] sure they are on the same page.”

Jordan said he walked into Tuesday’s meeting thinking he was going to be impeached after seeing the document. Although impeachment and removal from office are two different processes, Jordan said they send the same message. 

“What it is is that they don’t have faith in me to do my job and are removing me from my job,” Jordan said. 

Student Government is continuing its effort to make University IDs an acceptable form of voter identification for federal, state and local elections.

SG representatives submitted an issue brief to the UT System Board of Regents concerning their resolution, voicing student support for University IDs as voter identification in May, according to Chris Jordan, SG chief of staff. Jenny LaCoste-Caputo, UT System’s executive director of public affairs, said the brief was received by the University System and approved as legislative priority at the University.

The brief was not sent for regent approval, but, rather, to inform the system that University IDs used as voter identification is something UT-Austin students are in favor of. 

“The Office of Governmental Relations essentially signed off on it and said they favored UT-Austin making it a legislative priority if they chose to do so, which I believe they have,” LaCoste-Caputo said.

LaCoste-Caputo said the regents have seen the brief but did not comment on it.

According to Jordan, SG normally does not share their resolutions with the System. SG President Kori Rady, who proposed the idea when running for his current position, said this policy could apply to other UT campuses, making it necessary to inform
the System. 

“I think any legislation that can apply to multiple-system schools — the Board of Regents and System have interests in,” Rady said.

Even though the issue brief has been sent to the System, Jordan said SG will work on lobbying the Texas Legislature to discuss the issue. Jordan said the timeline for this project is unknown because it is such a big task to take on.

“We can go ahead and begin talking to members of the legislature about this issue and seeing what the possibilities are, whether or not the regents approve of this, or not,” Jordan said.

In order to see this resolution through, SG members working on the project must find legislative sponsors to write a bill proposing a change in the current law. Jordan said the process starts with SG members forming relationships with state legislators.

“It’s not something you can ask on the first meeting, so it’s really important to have those relationships before we move forward with this in order for it to be successful,” Jordan said.

Currently, public university IDs are considered state-issued IDs, but they are not considered voter IDs. Jordan said that SG members must work out details on how to change the IDs, so they can function for voting. 

Historically in Texas, state officials have been against student IDs as voter identification — as seen in the debates over the topic when passing Senate Bill 14 in 2011, government lecturer James Henson said.

“The fact that state-issued universities IDs were not on the list of allowed voting identifications when the bill was written was controversial at the time,” Henson said. “Many Democrats wanted that, and it was left out of the bill.”

Henson said he thinks it is unlikely the state legislature will open up this issue again in its current political state.

Jordan said SG members are more optimistic than they were in May, now that they have University and student support. Jordan also said that representatives in the Office of Governmental Relations at UT, who have been serving as advisers on the resolution, told him there are legislators interested in hearing the proposal.

“There are people at all levels who are interested in seeing this to completion,” Jordan said.

Anti-sexting flyers using an unsanctioned version of Student Government’s logo were hung across campus Tuesday. 

The flyers read “Respect your body. Stop posting boobs on unseen” with the Unseen app logo crossed out in the center. The SG logo was placed on the bottom left corner of each flyer with the words “student conservatives” next to it.

Unseen is an app targeted toward college students that allows users to share photos anonymously. The app is often associated with the sharing of sexually explicit photos and content.

The maker of the flyer is unknown, and the name “student conservatives” does not appear in the list of registered student organizations.

Chris Jordan, SG chief of staff, said he is unaware of the flyer’s source, but they are not officially related with SG in any way.

“At this time, we are really not sure where those came from,” Jordan said. “They are not being used in any official capacity. They certainly weren’t printed with any of the exec board’s consent.”

According to Jordan, using a SG logo without consent has happened in the past and could have consequences.

“It does bare some implications as far as the Dean of Students is concerned if it was done by a registered student organization, or even some legal considerations if it was done by a individual student,” Jordan said.

Student Government and a group of administrators will reexamine SG’s governing documents Tuesday because of the Office of Legal Affairs’ decision to not allow the release of interview notes in early August.

The decision was a response to the SG court’s request in May for the release of interview notes from internal and external positions. SG assembly speaker Braydon Jones said SG was planning to revise its governing documents over the summer, but because SG drew significant attention regarding the interview notes, the documents are being examined in greater detail for compliance with the Office of Dean of Students’ policy.

Chris Jordan, SG chief of staff, said SG must make sure to follow the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and other University rules.

“We’re subject, of course, to higher laws than the Student Government rules,” Jordan said. “But I think [it] was good in that it sparked a discussion about what our rules actually say and how we can reformat them.” 

SG President Kori Rady said the discussion of whether interview notes should be released never occurred because no one had requested them in recent years until May. Jones, who worked as chief of staff during the 2013-2014 school year, said interview notes were taken and stored by the chief of staff in the past. 

“I oversaw that each member of our executive board who sat in an interview completed a rubric,” Jones said in an email. “I kept each rubric on file in my office; and once my term was completed this past April, I shredded each document. I am not sure if other Chief of Staffs kept their interview notes on file; however, I do know they were never released.”

When the Office of Legal Affairs determined releasing the interview notes would violate FERPA, Jordan said SG executives were not told what area of the law releasing the notes violated.

“All we were told was that the notes would constitute a FERPA violation and were therefore not producible in an unaltered state,” Jordan said. 

According to Jeffery Graves, associate vice president of the Office of Legal Affairs, any student document or record that contains personal information not released in the student directory is a violation of FERPA. 

“FERPA does not distinguish between any sorts of records,” Graves said. “There’s nothing about GPA, transcripts and academic records. It protects all records when they are directly related to a student, and they are maintained by a institution.”

Jordan said SG rules are currently being examined for other contradictions between SG and the Office of Dean of Students’ regulations. 

“[Our governing document] was written by students, for students,” Jordan said. “I think it would be a different animal if it were written by someone with a legal background, but it was written for students, so naturally there’s some contradictions in there.”

Jones said SG rules have been flawed for the last few years. 

“I believe that the circumstances over the last few months have made it clear that there are some problems with the current wording of our governing documents,” Jones said. “This is an exciting time for the assembly, as we will be able to make this serious adjustment as we are restructuring our current rules.”

Several months into the new SG term, there are still positions empty. Jordan said a time line for when final decisions will be made and how the interview process will change is still uncertain.

“I think this clarity will definitely help Student Government in the coming year to understand when transparency is important and when it is overshadowed by the legal aspect of how we exist in the university structure,” Jordan said. 

While Student Government members hope to make student ID cards an eligible form of voter identification, some students have raised concerns about what this would mean for undocumented students. 

Adam Sacks, a College of Natural Sciences representative, said he is concerned that if student ID cards become a valid form of voter ID, the cards might visibly show the students’ citizenship status.

“I want to be sure there would be nothing that can incriminate the undocumented students on our campus,” Sacks said.

SG President Kori Rady said he hopes the necessary information would all be stored inside the IDs, so if a student were undocumented, it would not be visible on the card.

“We wouldn’t alienate anyone through this entire process,” Rady said. “From our initial understanding, [student ID cards] wouldn’t look any different from the way they do now.”

Bradley Englert, chief information officer of Information Technology Services, said if legislators were to amend the voter ID law to allow this, which would be necessary in order to make any changes to the current voter ID system, a student’s date of birth would have to be added to the ID.

“Some people might not be comfortable with that,” Englert said. “Some of our students aren’t U.S. citizens, so we’d also have to figure out how to convey that.”

On Tuesday, the SG Assembly unanimously passed resolution AR 6: In Support of Student Identification Cards from Institutes of Higher Education Meeting Voter Requirements in the State of Texas.

Some acceptable forms of voter identification in Texas include a Texas driver’s license, a U.S. passport, a U.S. citizenship certificate or a concealed handgun license. Currently, student ID cards are not an eligible form of voter identification in Texas.

Chris Jordan, SG chief of staff and author of the legislation, said the current voter ID system contributes to low student turnout in elections.

“Not having a stable form of ID for students who are out of state and don’t live in the Austin area, it’s really hard for them to be adequately represented,” Jordan said. “I think this is something that’s not only incredibly tangible but also incredibly helpful.”

Jordan said he has received support from administrators and students and would continue researching states with strict laws like Texas that allow the use of college IDs. 

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 34 states have passed laws requiring voters to show some form of identification at polls, and the remaining 19 states use other methods to verify a voter’s identity.

Virginia will implement new voter ID laws in July that will make a student ID issued by any institute of higher learning in the state an acceptable form of identification. Thirteen states currently allow voters to use a student ID card issued by a school within the state, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“Texas is really unique that this law is so strict,” Jordan said.

Internal and external Student Government positions were not officially sworn in by the SG Judicial Court on Tuesday night because of controversies surrounding external
appointments nominations.

All internal positions were confirmed by the assembly during Tuesday’s meeting but won’t be officially sworn in until the court issues a decision next week, according to SG Chief Justice Philip Wiseman. As of press time, no external positions were confirmed.

Andrew Wilson, outgoing president of the Liberal Arts Council, submitted a petition claiming three external positions did not have applications filed for them and asked that all interview notes be made public.

Originally, executive board members were nominated in three positions: SG President Kori Rady as the chair of the Spirit and Traditions Council, Internal Financial Director Rachel Miller as the chair of Faculty Council Student Life Committee and Vice President Taylor Strickland as Faculty Council Rec Sports Committee chair. 

According to Chris Jordan, SG chief of staff, using an executive board member in an unfilled position is not an uncommon practice and allows the position to be filled by the Faculty Council’s deadline, so the position can be opened up again in the summer.

Wilson’s petition requested the court issue an injunction on the confirmations of the external nominations. 

The SG Judicial Court voted 3-2 against issuing a preliminary injunction motion. Wiseman said a court hearing will be scheduled next week.

“Confirmation hearings tonight are not the last step,” Wiseman said. “Making those public rulings will ultimately determine if the process was legitimate and followed appropriately.”

Last week, the court issued an opinion advising that the executive board publicize applications and interview transcripts 48 hours before this week’s agenda was released to the assembly.

The SG internal rules state the chief of staff must make public all applications for all appointees. Jordan said he released all the applications, but did not do so before the set deadline. As a result, the names were not allowed to be put on the agenda.

“For transparency purposes, I didn’t have all the interviews done 48 hours before the meeting,” Jordan said. 

Wilson said, without interview notes, the assembly would not be able to effectively evaluate the appointments.

“You can increase the legitimacy of the representative nature of SG by reopening the applications to other students, and they can fill them out over the summer, rather than just filing students in those positions who didn’t even fill out an application or probably even do an interview,” Wilson said.

Jordan said although Wilson has raised these concerns, he has not received a request from any member of the assembly for interview notes.

“The feeling of the assembly is that it’s kind of irrelevant,” Jordan said. “The internal rules says all interview questions and answers shall be made public by the staff, but it does not mention transcripts.”

Despite concerns from several assembly members about the lack of diversity among the appointed Student Government executive board, the assembly voted to confirm all appointed students to their positions Tuesday.

Chris Jordan was confirmed to the chief of staff position by a vote of 26-0-6. Jordan, a finance, English and philosophy junior, said he would make sure to reach out to all student organizations on campus to promote diversity. Jordan has been in Student Government for two-and-a-half years.

“We will be active in making sure we’re at as many meetings as possible,” Jordan said.

SG President Kori Rady said he selected Jordan for the position because of his experience in a variety of organizations.

“It was really impressive how thoroughly he understands every platform point,” Rady said.

Radio-television-film senior Nathan Waters was approved unanimously as communications director by the assembly.

Waters said he plans to update the SG website, create a smartphone application for students and work on PR for the organization. Waters is a new member to SG.

Economics junior Rachel Miller was approved as internal financial director by unanimous consent. Miller has been a Longhorn Legislative Aide, a member of the SG finance committee and the director of alumni relations.

Corporate communications junior Kyle Mason was approved as external financial director by unanimous consent.

Mason said he wants to create a way to hold University-wide representatives and other members in SG accountable. Mason was a University-wide representative from Spring 2013 to Spring 2014.

Government junior Nosa Aimuyo was also approved as administrative director by unanimous consent. Aimuyo said he has been a Longhorn Legislative Aide and a liberal arts representative in SG.

Aimuyo said he hopes to expand the position of administrative director by holding representatives accountable and helping members complete their initiatives.

“In the past, compared to the other executive board positions, the administrative director has been fairly inactive,” Aimuyo said. “Student Government should always be looking to expand and grow.”

Arjun Mocherla, Plan II and public health sophomore, and Kenzie Spaniol, nutritional science junior,were also confirmed as President’s Student Advisory Council, known as PSAC.

“I think that while PSAC does a great job of informing President Powers on the issues, we can do a much better job,” Mocherla said. “I’m hoping that by expanding PSAC’s job description, members can be more productive in bringing issues they want to discuss with President Powers.”