Parliament leader helps members through ‘growing pains’

Parliamentarian Jacob Kurtz has led Parliament through several conflicts that arose this year.

Jacob Kurtz, Parliamentarian of Temple Student Government’s Parliament, has led the representative branch through several internal conflicts this year. | MAGGIE LOESCH / THE TEMPLE NEWS

After spending a semester as the Tyler School of Art Parliament representative in Spring 2017, Jacob Kurtz wanted to run for a higher position — the role of Parliamentarian. But first, he had a decision to make.

“The hardest thing I had to deal with is, if I take this role, I can’t necessarily make my stances public, and I can’t be advocating the same way I was previously,” he said.

Kurtz was appointed as Parliamentarian last April for Parliament, Temple Student Government’s representative branch. This position requires him to be impartial in Parliament’s proceedings — which differs from his advocacy as a representative. He is now responsible for managing Parliament members, reviewing proposed resolutions and ensuring that members of Parliament follow the rules and guidelines in the branch’s bylaws.

Another one of his primary responsibilities is filling vacant Parliament seats.

But this role has proved challenging for Kurtz in Parliament’s second year: About one-third of Parliament seats are vacant — something Kurtz believes is partly because of his approach to leadership.

Parliament was started under former Student Body President Aron Cowen in the 2016-17 academic year. It is a 37-member representative body made up of students across schools, years and demographics.

So far this academic year, the branch has faced several internal conflicts.  In November 2017, more than 10 members of Parliament filed to impeach one another — including the impeachment hearing for Kurtz. Although only Kurtz went through the impeachment process and all other filings were dropped, Parliament subsequently held conflict resolution trainings.

“I expected more of [representatives], and I think that may have pushed some people out,” he said. “I made them…do more than they had intended originally, and I think that’s because I had previous experience.”

No member of Parliament responded to a request to be interviewed for this story.

As Parliamentarian, Kurtz sits on the TSG’s Ethics Board, along with Auditor General Morrease Leftwich and Elections Commissioner Matthew Diamond. The Ethics Board oversees both branches of TSG — the Executive Board and Parliament — to make sure that no constitutional violations occur.

“I think Jacob is pretty passionate about some issues, mostly social justice issues, but he doesn’t let that blur reason,” Leftwich said.

Last November, Leftwich oversaw an impeachment hearing in which a former Parliament representative filed to impeach Kurtz. Parliament voted to keep him in office.

Student Body President Tyrell Mann-Barnes said Kurtz has helped Parliament through its “growing pains” in its second year.

“He’s helped the entire branch and organization grow and develop,” he said. “I really admire his overall optimism about how we have to get over the horrible things that happened or the things we can’t control.”

“Even though he doesn’t have to help [Parliament] come up with initiatives, he just has to make sure they’re following the rules of Parliament, he does help them,” Leftwich added.

Kurtz maintains that, despite Parliament’s internal conflict, representatives are still “getting things done.” He wishes that people would “trust Parliament’s process” and trust that they will accomplish what they set out to do.

“The one thing about Parliament is it’s a group of…theoretically, 30-some young adults, and unexpected stuff happens all the time,” Kurtz said. “There’s not necessarily a cohesiveness, but there’s an end goal that’s the same, how we best represent our students and our student body.”

“It’s been really difficult at times, but it’s always been rewarding because when we do accomplish things, there is a bit of satisfaction on my part,” he added. “I might not get the same amount of credit, but there’s a bit of, ‘Wow, my team did that, and I’m proud of them.’”

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