Home Politics Student Senate votes no on participatory government

Student Senate votes no on participatory government

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The Student Senate failed to pass a resolution for participatory governance model on Wednesday. The final vote was 7-33 with five abstentions.

The new model was proposed by the Direct Democracy Committee and would have kept the Senate, but senators would have taken on the role of delegates, and each one would relay the opinions of individual unionized colleges, if students in the college voted in favor of unionization.

Debate broke out during the meeting over whether the dissolution of the representative government currently in place would produce an exclusive and unwelcoming environment.

Student Senate Vice President Jared Ohnsman introduced the discussion with a series of points countering the bill, including critiques that the proposal would lead to increasing gridlock and silencing the majority.

According to Ohnsman, under the proposed structure, two weeks would be required for a resolution to pass after going through a single union or commission and then a campus-wide vote. Currently, a resolution introduced by a student can pass through Senate in three to seven days.

Also, under the proposed system, “A proposal to hold a closed-door session or to exclude one or more persons must be seconded before being submitted to the meeting and (would be) adopted if (it) obtains a two-thirds (2/3) majority,” which according to Ohnsman would “silence the voice of the minority opinion without actually listen to them.”

“There are a lot of unanswered questions, a lot of undecided business, with this charter,” Ohnsman said.

The Committee on Rules and Procedures also gave a presentation on their findings on how the resolution would have to become law. The committee found that because there would be multiple changes to the Senate Constitution, the charter would have to be passed as a constitutional amendment.

According to the Constitution, constitutional amendments must be passed by two-thirds of the Senate body and then by a majority of the student body before being voted on by the Board of Trustees. Members of the Direct Democracy Committee, who presented the charter, had previously said that the charter would not need to be a constitutional amendment.

Other Senate members had their own qualms of the bill.

“This new model neglects intersectionality… I’m black and I’m also a woman… I’m equally black as I’m a woman and I should have the right to vote as both,” said Black Affairs Commissioner Brittany Mitchell.

In response, Daniel Kington, co-sponsor of the resolution, said that students can participate in more than one union.

Minority Affairs Commissioner Sasha Estrella-Jones argued that students who identified with more than one interest group would have more political power.

“Ultimately I think it’s good that we give extra voting power to the people who are excluded from the conversation,” said Kington in his rebuttal.

The party who held the majority of last year’s Student Senate seats wanted all students to be able to vote. The charter was developed over the summer by a committee that sought to be a compromise between the old Senate and the new Senate.

Proponents of the proposal supported the changes as a way to create a participatory state of government instead of letting a select group of students make decisions for the college as a whole.

They also wanted students to vote on whether the charter should be implemented. Environmental Affairs Commissioner Grant Stover said during the debate that because the charter affects the whole student body, they should be the ones voting for it instead of Senate.

During the final 20 minutes of the meeting, discussion turned from arguing the specific points of the bill to looking toward the future. Multiple people suggested that rather than overturn the system now, slight changes and reform could be introduced over time.

One proposal was to include a measure in the next student election to see whether the general population felt they would benefit from a unionized form of government.

When conversation ceased and senators called for a vote, an overwhelming majority voted in favor of keeping the existing structure.

“There is a more gradual way we can do this; a more constructive way we can do this,” said Student Senate President Gabby Bacha.

Senate also created two more Senate Appropriations Commission (SAC) senator-at-large seats to accompany the commission’s merger with uFund two weeks ago. The new senators will be voting members and will be elected by the student body, like the other SAC senators-at-large. Corey Knavel was appointed to one of the new seats during the meeting as well.

CORRECTION: The original article said that four people voted for the participatory government charter. The actual number was seven.

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