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Senator calls for ‘puppet’ rule

Kaitlynn Riely | Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Siegfried senator Jim Lockwood has drafted an amendment to the Student Body Constitution to give senators more power in dictating what the student body president says at meetings of the newly formed Community/Campus Advisory Coalition (CCAC).

In an e-mail to Siegfried residents Monday, Lockwood said the amendment was part of a “master plan” to turn the student body president into a “puppet” at the meetings. Later, he sent a second e-mail to his constituents saying he “exaggerated” and was trying to get students interested in student government.

Lockwood, a senior, did not offer The Observer details on his “master plan.”

“I’d like to see the senator position be strengthened to some extent before I graduate,” he said Monday night. “I’d like to see the position have more say in what is going on in the campus and have a bigger voice.”

Student body president Liz Brown told The Observer Monday she had concerns with the proposed amendment.

“You can’t have people acting as puppets,” she said.

Lockwood first introduced the amendment at the Student Senate meeting last Wednesday. It was sent directly to the Senate Oversight committee and is on the agenda for consideration at the Senate meeting Wednesday.

In his first e-mail to Siegfried residents, Lockwood explained the purpose of the amendment.

The amendment would require the student body president to report to the Senate all activity that occurs during CCAC meetings.

The CCAC is a coalition of city, resident, student and college representatives from South Bend. Its goal is to help the South Bend Common Council identify neighborhood concerns related to the local colleges, propose solutions and develop long-term strategies. Its creation was a final amendment to the party permit ordinance passed by the Common Council on Sept. 24 after weeks of deliberation.

The ordinance contains the language for, but does not enact, legislation that would require residents of homes where more than two unrelated people live to file a permit with the city before holding gatherings at which 25 or more people would have access to alcohol.

Lockwood said in the e-mail that he would next introduce an amendment that requires the Senate approve the activities and statements made by student body president Liz Brown at the CCAC meetings.

“If the Senate doesn’t approve of what she says, or said at the last meeting, the Senate will draft a response or statement to be read by Liz at the meeting,” Lockwood’s e-mail read. “Failure to read this statement will be a violation of the Constitution.”

Lockwood said in his e-mail that neither the CCAC nor the city ordinance will go away anytime soon.

“We have to be practical about this,” he wrote. “What we can do is turn Liz or any president of the student body [into] a puppet in the meetings [whose] strings are controlled by the student [representatives]. That is my goal.”

Mandating that the president bring back all the documentation from the CCAC meetings could be a problem, Brown said.

“I don’t know that everything that is talked about in these meetings should be completely revealed, just due to confidentiality reasons,” she said. “But I am in support of reporting back to the student body anything that happens.”

Lockwood later rescinded his “puppet” comment.

“I don’t mean an actual puppet,” he told The Observer. “I just want students to be able to have their own views.”

Lockwood, a second-term senator for Siegfried, said his amendment is meant to update the Constitution by providing guidelines as to how the student body president should interact with the CCAC.

“It’s not targeted at anyone,” he said. “It’s not malice toward anyone.”

Lockwood’s proposed amendment calls for the student body president, or a representative that she may send to the CCAC meeting in her place, to provide the Student Senate with “any and all documentation pertaining to the CCAC.”

“This shall include (but shall not be limited to) agendas and minutes, speeches and presentations, discussions and debates and the introduction and passage of any measures,” the proposed amendment reads. “The student body president must provide said documentation to the Student Senate at is first regular meeting after any meeting of the CCAC.”

Brown said she was “committed” to representing the interests of students to the CCAC and did not think Lockwood’s amendment was necessary.

“[Student body vice president] Maris [Braun] and I were elected by the student body, and we were elected to serve their interests and concerns, and I think at some point students have to put their trust in representatives to make the right decisions,” she said.

Lockwood said the nature of the office of the president, whether at a national or local level, is to enjoy having authority.

“I’m not pointing my finger at Liz; I’m pointing my finger at the office,” Lockwood said.

He said he wants the voice at the CCAC meetings to be the voice of all students, not just one. One president, Lockwood said, cannot understand what all students are thinking. Senators, he said, should be the ones “primarily involved” in community relations, given their intimate knowledge of their constituents’ concerns.

“I just think the senators should have the ability to not only hear what is presented, but also a say in it,” Lockwood said. “As it stands right now, since [the CCAC] is such a new committee, there is no precedent inside the Student Body Constitution, so anything can be said in that council meeting, and the senators have no right, constitutionally, to know what is going on in that meeting.”

The inaugural meeting of the CCAC has not yet been scheduled, but Brown said she expects it will take place this month.