After multiple periods of questioning and concerns from senators, junior Josh Gutmaker was confirmed by the Undergraduate Senate as the chair of the Joint Committee on Elections Policy by a 4-2-2 vote on Oct. 8.
Gutmaker was favorably recommended by the senate's Committee on Rules and Privileges and had Student Government President Taylor Dumpson’s support when applying for the position. He has previous experience running campaigns, including Dumpson’s, and served as chief of staff for former SG President Devontae Torriente.
Gutmaker’s previous experience prompted concerns from members of the Senate, especially in regards to his impartiality while serving in the position.
Senator Haley Lickstein began the questioning. She asked Gutmaker whether or not he would remain impartial while serving as the chair and asked what steps he believes should be taken if issues regarding impartiality arise.
Gutmaker assured the Senate that he would remain impartial and if any situations arose in which he felt as though he had a bias, he would recuse himself and leave it to the Senate’s judgement.
Gutmaker was also asked about his experience with election policies. He admitted that he had not read the policy book and did not plan on it until after he was confirmed, which raised concerns among the senators about Gutmaker’s desire and interest in the position.
“[The election’s policy book] is printed out, sitting next to my computer right there,” Gutmaker said. “I doubted the Senate’s willingness to approve me, so I wasn’t going to read that 'til you all approved me.”
After a brief questioning period, Gutmaker was asked to leave the room and the senators deliberated. Although many did not agree with the choice of Gutmaker, they also raised concerns over the fact that Gutmaker was the only applicant for the position and that the application was only open for four days during midterm season, a busy time for most students.
However, rather than voting on Gutmaker’s confirmation, Lickstein motioned for another round of questioning in order to allow Gutmaker to respond to the senators’ concerns.
The Senate then questioned Gutmaker on why he wanted the position, to which he said that he wanted to assist President Dumpson and assure that a clean election policy book was created for the Senate’s approval.
“[Dumpson] asked me to help serve, and that’s what I’m here to do. With me, you would get a clean policy book that you would have to approve and I want to do it because no one has been able to really get [an elections policy book] through in a very clean way,” Gutmaker said.
The Senate decided to vote on the matter, but agreed that the application for the position should have been open for a longer period of time and that a diversity of applicants outside of student government should be encouraged to apply.
“I’m happy that I can serve student government in a position again,” Gutmaker said. “[I hope] elections will be as smooth and nice as possible.”
Correction: This article previously said Josh Gutmaker was recommended by the Center for Responsive Policy. He was recommended by the senate's Committee on Rules and Privileges.