Home Politics Student Senate inducts new members, debates direct democracy again

Student Senate inducts new members, debates direct democracy again

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Student Senate inducted the members of next year’s Senate during Wednesday’s meeting. But beforehand, they had another discussion on direct democracy in Senate.

Most of the final meeting of the school year was spent on how to implement direct democracy into Student Senate and whether it was constitutional under Senate’s constitution. This came after Senate passed a controversial resolution during the March 25 meeting to allow any student who attends Senate general body meetings to vote on resolutions beginning next school year. The resolution was passed despite a concrete plan to implement it.

The arguments saying that it wasn’t constitutional pointed to Article 3, Section 1 in the constitution.

“The Senate shall be composed of Executive Officers, each having one vote, and Senators, each having one vote,” Article 3 says.

Some senators argued the language of this section points to the need for a constitutional amendment approved by the Board of Trustees to allow for direct democracy. Others argued that the language was vague enough to allow for every student to vote, since it didn’t specify what a “senator” was.

“If student government believes that it will benefit from mass participation or at least more participation…, then I see nothing holding anyone back from doing that,” outgoing president Megan Marzec said.

Jacob Jakuszeit, a sophomore urban planning major, argued that Senate has every authority to become a direct democracy because the ambiguity of the constitution allowed it, and Senate voted for it.

“If this language allows something, and that something was passed by the Student Senate, why is now being questioned?” Jakuszeit said. “I can only see the motivation being ‘No, no, we want the power; we don’t want to share it with others.’”

Senate ended up passing a resolution to create an independent committee to come up with a way to implement direct democracy into Senate, as well as inform the student body on the new voting procedure. Incoming president Gabby Bacha was an original sponsor of the resolution until it changed from an exploratory committee into a transitional committee — meaning that they are fully going forward with it — under the rationale that students voted for a direct democracy via voting for Restart last year.

“My idea, and what I wanted from the beginning, was to have a committee that looked at all different types of government, really benchmark what other people do at other places [and see] what other students want.” Bacha said. “That’s what I advocated for… Unfortunately, that resolution was changed.”

The resolution received no “nay” votes but some votes of abstention.

Much of the meeting was used to reflect on what Senate had done during the year. Many referred to letting students voice their opinions during general body meetings and the multiple rallies throughout the year as successes of this year’s Senate. Others praised Marzec for her actions and standing firm in her beliefs during the aftermath of her Blood Bucket Challenge video, saying that she inspired activists throughout the nation.

“This Senate has been run by one of the most courageous people in Ohio and around the country,” outgoing senator-at-large Jacob Chaffin said.

Incoming resident assistant union leader Casi Arnold took time during the meeting to ask Bacha, a current senior RA, to sign a union membership card right at the meeting. While Bacha said that she didn’t want to create a conflict of interest, she accepted an application form for consideration.

Tim Traxler of the Athens Historical Society presented to Senate on informational material on the Ridges and the President Street Academic Center. He said that the Academic Center, which is being considered for demolition, is important to Athens’ identity as a beautiful college town and should not be torn down.

“We can’t think of a reason that it should be torn down other than it’s probably inconvenient for somebody,” Traxler said.

Vice President of Finance and Administration Stephen Golding said during a January media event that the building, which has been offline since 2003, that it was debated on being demolished because of the poor, outdated conditions of the building as well as the possible presence of asbestos.

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