By Bethann Coldiron—
Student Government Association (SGA) President Jay Johnson vetoed a controversial bill and fired two members of his staff after they criticized him on social media.
Commonly referred to as the “campus carry law,” the bill would allow students to bring guns into the classroom.
Johnson said he vetoed the bill because of technical errors and his belief that guns do not belong on campus.
“In my opinion, the bill is too lengthy. There is some misinformation. One thing that sticks out to me is that in order to get your CHL [Concealed Handgun License] you have to get 10-15 hours of training. They changed it to 4-6 [hours] last year. “
Johnson wanted the SGA resolution to include some of the verbiage legislation pending before the Texas Legislature.
“It was sent to me very late Tuesday night, March 24, the day before the meeting Wednesday, March 25,” said Johnson. “So, I didn’t have time to meet with the authors. I have issues with the opinionated statements and the verbiage in general. I wasn’t comfortable moving forward with the bill the way it was written.”
Johnson said he likes “to hold student government to a higher standard, and I don’t feel this bill reflects our standards.”
He added that with the misinformation in the bill, “it would not reflect well on Tarleton as a university.”
In addition to his technical objections to the resolution, Johnson said that he is also “opposed to campus carry. I’m not going to lie and say that didn’t influence my decision. I feel that the campus is a safer place without guns in the classroom. I really do believe that.”
There were several senators missing from the vote that night, and Johnson did not feel that the students were represented as a whole due to those missing senators.
At the center of this controversy are Lura Rylant and Anna Gutierrez-Perez, two students who were part of Johnson’s cabinet. They are also running for president and vice president, respectfully.
Rylant said, “We will not be doing an interview.”
Gutierez-Perez did not respond to a voice mail on her cell phone requesting an interview.
Johnson dismissed Rylant and Gutierrez-Perez late last week after they posted a comment on their campaign page, criticizing Johnson’s decision. They were appointed by Johnson and the vice president, Alyssa Byrd.
At an executive meeting, Johnson informed his team that he had vetoed the campus carry bill. Rylant and Gutierez-Perez were not present at this meeting.
Texan News obtained a screen shot of what was written on their campaign Facebook page. The comment, which was later deleted, read:
“Student body president Jay Johnson has vetoed legislation that passed both the student senate and SGA House of Representatives with overwhelming support from our student body. That is not why he was elected to this office. The job of the student body president is to represent the voice of the student body, not to ignore them to further his or her own personal agenda. If elected we can promise that the students will be in charge of the legislation that passes the student government association, listening to their values and opinions, rather than our own personal agenda.”
Johnson said, “They had not contacted me before making that post, and it was very critical of the decision I made.”
“This isn’t a situation of disagreement or that dissent is not welcome in SGA,” said Johnson. “We welcome discussion – that is a part of leadership for me, when people tell me that I might be wrong. But there are ways to do that that are more respectful. I really wish they had expressed their opinions to me personally first. I talked to a couple of my members of my executive team, and my vice president, and I really felt it was a breach of trust.”
Johnson expressed frustration that Rylant and Gutierrez-Perez did not reach out to him and said the breach of trust made him question their loyalty.
“I did reach out to both of them and asked if they would meet with me after Tarleton Round Up, and they said they were not available,” said Johnson. “The next correspondence with me was an email, which said they were not comfortable meeting with me alone in person, and would meet only if our advisor was there. I felt like that was an issue as well, since it was an SGA issue. I called and left a message, then sent a text, and they replied back and said they felt they were being bullied. Then I conferred with some of the executive team and put forward a decision to give them an option to resign that night by 7:30 p.m. They did not get back to me. Therefore, their position was terminated.”
Johnson provided Texan News a copy of the text he sent Rylant and Gutierrez-Perez.
“I am disappointed with your recent personal attacks on me and thus the executive branch which you represent,” Johnson’s text read. “I appointed you with the intent that you would aid the executive branch’s goals and decisions, not publicly criticize them. The executive branch is a team and you have broken the trust of that team, something I value greatly. Based on your behavior I will be giving you until 7:30 p.m. tonight to submit your resignation or your position will be terminated. This is not a decision that was influenced by the upcoming elections or your campaign. I do wish we could have had an in person, civil conversation regarding this issue, but you would not pay me that service. I hope if you are victorious that your executive members will represent you better than you have represented me.”
“I want to emphasize that this was a not a decision because of their campaign or anything that they had said during their campaign or any personal feelings,” Johnson said in an interview. “I would have handled this the same way six months ago. These are appointed positions by the president and vice president, and part of that is to support the goals of them. You do not have to agree with them, but at the end of the day you represent the executive branch, and I thought they did a poor job of that.”
“I think this could hurt their campaign, and it’s unfortunate that this happened now. I think a lot of it was for political gain. But I guess we will see on April 8th.” Voting in the SGA election starts April 6 and ends April 8.
In addition to Rylant and Gutierrez-Perez, two other teams are running for president and vice president: Jamee Bell and Drew Watson, and Delaney Olsen and Jordan Reeder.
SGA took up the issue again Wednesday night and voted 46 to 7 against overturning Johnson’s veto.
“This affects student welfare, and I want to represent what is in the constitution,” said Johnson. “At the end of the day, that’s my job, and I feel I did what was best for the student body. I know many people disagree with that.”