Six months after they mysteriously took leaves of absence, the president and vice president of Student Government have resigned.
Ziya Kardas, who was elected president last spring, did not announce or explain his resignation, which first came up at a Student Government meeting on Jan. 30.
A week later, Vice President Gina Rotunno also resigned. In an email to the Student Government members, she said she had no interest in becoming president and would no longer be involved in government on the St. Petersburg campus.
The resignations mean Student Government must now hold a special election for the two posts, but its constitution does not specify how or when the election should be held.
“We will be setting a lot of precedents with this election and we want to set those rules correctly,” said Laraine Ruiz, who as student senate president became acting Student Government president when Kardas went on leave in August. “We want to close as many loopholes as possible.”
Student Government and its university adviser, Matt Morrin, the director of student life and engagement, never explained why the two leaders took leaves of absence in August.
An email to SG members on Aug. 11 said only that it was “a routine step pursuant through established university practices for reviewing certain university matters.”
The move apparently came after a dispute between Kardas and Rotunno that involved allegations of harassment.
“The university thoroughly investigated the harassment allegations and I was completely cleared,” Kardas told The Crow’s Nest in an email Saturday. He declined to offer further explanation.
Rotunno did not respond to an email from the newspaper, and Morrin again declined to discuss the matter.
The latest news is another blow for Student Government, which has struggled for relevance at a university where the vast majority of students live off campus and show little interest in student politics.
Kardas and his running mate, Alexis Germaise, became president and vice president without opposition last March.
Because they drew no opposition, their names were put on the ballot and they had to receive more than 50 percent of the vote to be elected.
Only 340 students voted, according to the USF InfoCenter, and 77 percent said yes to the Kardas-Germaise ticket.
Germaise later stepped down and was replaced by Rotunno, who was chosen by Kardas from a pool of applicants and approved by the senate.
Ruiz took the role of acting student president before the 2016 fall semester began. She was initially elected as the senate president. Ruiz explained that she could not be granted the position permanently without an election because of the constitutional guidelines.
Student Government’s next general election begins Feb. 27 and runs through March 2. Jozef Gherman, former student body president and current senator, submitted a bill that would add the special election of a president onto the general election.
Gherman’s bill did not pass, it instead was kicked back to the senate committee on policy, who will meet Tuesday to discuss it.
“I don’t think this situation would happen again in the next 10 years, but if it does we need to be prepared,” Gherman said.
This process comes at a problematic time for Student Government, as the president and chief financial officer will need to begin the process of creating the A&S fee budget, one of the government’s largest responsibilities. Even when elected, the next Student Government president would only maintain their position for a short time until the next presidential election begins in May.
Applicants for the next senate general election should be announced Monday, Feb. 13.