In their final meeting of last semester, Oberlin Student Cooperative Association board members appointed Conservatory fourth-year Teagan Webb as interim president to fill the position left by College third-year Gio Donovan. Typically, the OSCA president serves a year-long term and is elected by the entire membership.
“Due to unfortunate and unpredictable circumstances I’ve had to step down as President of OSCA for the 2019-2020 academic year,” Donovan wrote in a message to the Review. “I’m currently on medical leave and plan to return to Oberlin in the fall of 2020.”
The OSCA board knew Donovan would be stepping down before the last board meeting of the fall semester. Due to OSCA policy, it was necessary to fill the vacancy.
“Legally, we’re required to have a president to exist as a nonprofit in the state of Ohio and the Board of Directors is also entrusted with the power to appoint interim positions like that,” said Rian Szende, College fourth-year and Chair of the OSCA Board. “Because there wasn’t enough time to have an OSCA-wide election like we normally do for full-time officerships … the board made its decision in its meeting to have an interim position appointed.”
In addition to its bylaws, OSCA is also subject to Ohio Revised Code, which is used to help navigate unanticipated events such as a vacancy in the leadership. This framework helped the board follow steps to appoint an interim president.
“We elicited responses from staff that we thought would have relevant experience — so any all-OSCA staff,” Webb said. “This includes people who work as operations managers, food coordinators, [or] committee coordinators were all contacted. So, if you were interested, you had to submit a candidate statement the same as we would with any election that basically speaks to your experience, to your commitment.”
Normally, these statements are reviewed by the board and then sent to all member co-ops for a vote. However, extenuating circumstances necessitated that the board itself voted on the candidate statements. Now, individual co-ops will go through their normal process of electing representatives to the board for the semester. Once the board is able to convene, it will discuss next steps.
“Once reps are elected, we’ll have to discuss … what makes the most sense for OSCA to continue functioning in the best way,” Szende said. “Whether we have an election or just stick with the board’s decision, whether the board agrees with a previous decision, what does OSCA want and what does OSCA need and then we’ll go from there.”
Webb has served as chair of the board for two years, and last semester she worked as the College-OSCA liaison — a special position that only exists during years that OSCA negotiates their rent contract with the College. Webb is currently fulfilling the responsibilities of both the liaison and president positions.
This year, the previously-scheduled contract negotiations were impacted by the Academic and Administration Program Review Steering Committee’s identification of OSCA as a source of lost revenue for the College. The change in leadership is unlikely to damage ongoing rent contract negotiations.
“I think that Teagan’s appointment as interim president is the best thing that could have happened out of a very difficult situation,” Szende said. “Teagan, as the liaison, has been … doing so much work. She has so much experience as an officer, being the chair [of the board] for two years before this. She has everything that she needs to fulfill this role perfectly.”
The board will discuss how to fill the OSCA-OC Liaison position in the coming weeks, pending its decision regarding the president position.