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Representatives discuss new turnover date

Amanda Michaels | Thursday, March 17, 2005

Wednesday night’s meeting of the Student Senate was drawn out by debate over an amendment to change student government transition dates that effectively polarized the group, and ultimately failed to pass after 90 minutes of discussion.

Siegfried senator James Leito, speaking for the Committee on Oversight, presented a resolution to change the dates on which the majority of the student government organizations switch leaders. The major thrust of the amendment is changing the turnover date for student body officers, the Student Union Board, Hall Presidents’ Council, Judicial Council, off-campus officers and the Student Senate from April 1 to the day after commencement. The proposed change comes in response to complaints that the inexperienced incoming officers waste a month of productivity acclimating to their new jobs that the outgoing officers could have taken advantage of. However, the resolution does allow for incoming members of the Council of Representatives to approve the next year’s budget, despite the fact that some will not yet have officially taken office.

Dates for elections would also be modified, requiring all student body and class elections to take place before Spring Break, and all hall elections (except Freshman Class Council) and off-campus elections to take place before April 1.

Leito outlined the amendment’s positive aspects, saying incoming senators would have an extra two weeks of Senate meetings to observe before they must take office themselves. The outgoing senators would use their year of experience to capitalize on the extra time and wrap up some of their projects.

It was specified, however, that the newly-elected senators would be expected to meet unofficially in April to get what Leito called “the administrative tasks” out of the way. By the end of the meeting, the resolution was amended to include the requirement that the incoming senators choose their committees and nominate representing members to other groups like COR and Faculty Senate before commencement, even though they will not be in term at the time.

“It’s senseless to say to someone that’s been elected for an entire year that they have to leave office before the second semester is over,” Leito said in support of the resolution. “[The date change] would encourage better programming and productivity during April.”

Fisher senator Sujal Pandya – the loudest voice of opposition when the issue was previously discussed – still stood against the amendment.

“It still hasn’t met the burden of proof required to amend a constitution,” Pandya said. “The cons outweigh the pros.”

Pandya later delved into political theory to weaken support for the resolution, asking why the group should be striving to extend the unfavorable ‘lame duck’ period – the time after a new officer has been elected, but before he takes office, during which the outgoing officer is assumed to no longer have the mandate of the public.

Another point of dissent, voiced by Committee on Academic Affairs chair but non-voting member Vijay Ramanan, was that senators might not take advantage of the time shifted from the beginning to the end of their term.

“If your professor hands out a syllabus at the beginning of the course that says there’s going to be a test on March 3, but emails you a few weeks into the semester to say the test is pushed back until March 10, you’re not going to study an extra week for it,” Ramadan said.

Senators hashed over the intricacies behind the resolution, debating, among other things, whether the outgoing or incoming senators would be more likely to spend their unofficial, out-of-term time working on student government issues.

The final vote, which was taken to a role call, was 14-11 in favor of the resolution. However, because it was a constitutional amendment, a 2/3 majority was required for approval, and thus it failed to pass.

The Senate did, however, approve a referendum on creating a $5 per semester student fee, charged to each student’s account, to fund the College Readership Program. The entire undergraduate student body can vote electronically Tuesday on whether they would be for or against such a fee. The vote decides little officially, though, because it is ultimately the Officers of the University who can create fees, so the results of the referendum will be used just to inform Senate’s decision on whether to pursue the idea.