March 05, 2002 11:00 pm

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

An embattled Sean Phillips has won back his position as Eastern Oregon Universitys student body president, but hes not sure how long hell stay in the position.

Phillips, who was dismissed as president in November by the Student Senate, was reinstated Monday after an Eastern arbitration board ruled in his favor.

Phillips, a senior from the Portland area, had filed a complaint charging that he was improperly dismissed. The arbitration board, comprised of faculty member Sally Click and students Brenda Lawson and Melanie Noell, agreed.

The boards decision means that Phillips is automatically reinstated as president. Blake Robinson, who succeeded Phillips as president, has returned to his position as vice president. Robinson automatically became president in November after Phillips was dismissed.

Phillips said he feels vindicated by the arbitration boards ruling.

It (the board ruling) was the right thing, Phillips said.

Phillips though is not sure if he will stay on as president.

There are still people in student government who dont want me there. If I stay, there may be a hostile working environment, he said.

The arbitration board ruled that the Senate violated student government bylaws on two grounds when it voted to dismiss Phillips.

The first point is that Phillips was not informed seven days beforehand that the Senate would hold a dismissal hearing on Nov. 6. Bylaws require that the president be notified at least seven days in advance that a dismissal hearing will be held.

Phillips did not learn of the hearing until the day it was to be conducted.

The arbitration board stated that adhering to a seven-day notification rule would have:

Allowed the senators to have a better opportunity to represent the views of their constituents at the hearing.

Given all parties sufficient time to prepare for the debate.

The campus community would have had the opportunity to participate in the decision process.

Phillips said he knew of the seven-day notification requirement when the hearing was conducted. Phillips told the Senate on Nov. 6 prior to the hearing that they should do what they feel is right.

Phillips said on Tuesday that he did not waive his right on Nov. 6 for seven days notification.

Robinson said the hearing would have been delayed if Phillips had asked for a seven-day notification.

The arbitration board also stated that Phillips dismissal was improper because at least a two-thirds vote was needed of the Senate. The body voted to dismiss Phillips by a one-vote margin.

EOUs student government constitution and bylaws do not state how much of a majority is needed to dismiss the president. However, it does state that a two-thirds majority is needed for impeachment of the president.

The arbitration board thus believes that a two-thirds majority should be required for something as important as dismissal, Click said.

The Senate dismissed Phillips after concluding he had not been calling enough meetings of the executive branch of Easterns student government.

The executive branch is comprised of high-ranking student body officers that include the president, vice president, the director of communications, director of political affairs and others.

Phillips called two meetings between the time school started on Sept. 24 and Nov. 6. Phillips said he does not believe it is necessary to conduct a lot of meetings to get business done. Phillips has this philosophy because of time he spent working for Intel. He said that Intels leaders emphasize that meetings often are unnecessary.

If you conduct meetings all the time, you will never get your work done, Phillips said.

He noted that the executive branch of EOUs student government has only about six members. Phillips said that such a small group should be able to communicate without conducting frequent meetings.

Phillips is majoring in psychology. He is also pursuing a major in political science, philosophy and economics. He is a resident assistant at East Dorion Hall and in 2002-03 will serve as the residence halls director.

A statement released Tuesday night by Easterns student government acknowledged that proper procedures were not followed when Phillips was dismissed.

For this we apologize to the students of Eastern Oregon University who have placed trust in their student leaders to perform necessary action on their behalf, while following proper procedure.

The student government representatives still are convinced though that what they tried to do was right.

We still believe that our actions were in the best interest of the students of Eastern and our organization when we dismissed President Phillips, their statement said.

Robinson said that he hopes that the friction which now exists can be cleared up. This is not about Blake and Sean. It is about doing what is best for the students.