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Senate passes nine election reform resolutions, votes on award winners

| Thursday, March 22, 2018

Student senate passed nine election reform resolutions, voted on the winners of campus-wide awards and heard from residential life regarding the incoming waiver policy Wednesday.

Judicial Council president and senior Matt Ross brought the election reforms to the senate, many of which dealt with issues experienced during the previous campaign cycle.

All nine passed with no more than four oppositions and abstentions by the senate members, although five members voted to end the meeting prior to discussing the proposals.

One resolution prohibited candidates from promising future positions to anyone, calling this “highly unethical behavior, the penalty for which may include a maximum penalty of forfeiture of candidacy,” as the Constitution reads.

“As far as why we state a maximum penalty of forfeiture … is because including that language in there indicates that it is a very serious offense,” junior parliamentarian Colin Brankin said. “[Promising positions] is something that we hold to be very, very unethical.”

The chief of staff is appointed by the student body president early on in the term, raising the question of how to monitor and when to condemn promising a position like chief of staff, sophomore Claire Saltzman, senator from Ryan Hall, said.

“All of these positions have to be approved by Senate,” Ross said. “That’s what you guys do the first meeting of the year, you guys approve the entire Executive Cabinet.”

Sophomore William Huffman, senator from Stanford Hall, did not believe the new senators would have the knowledge and experience to deny someone a position on the senator’s first meeting.

“I’m not entirely confident in that check,” he said. “I don’t think a new senate would have the confidence to deny a person.”

Brankin said that to fix this issue, the entire schedule of student body elections would have to change.

“That’s just kind of the fault of the system,” Brankin said. “At the very least, we do have that check in place.”

The resolution to harshly punish candidates who promise positions to constituents passed with no abstentions or opposing votes.

The senate also passed a resolution allowing election allegations or appeals to be withdrawn before the allegation or appeal meeting takes place.

“This was a question we ran into this year as to whether or not that’s allowed, so we want to make sure that we know that it is allowed,” Ross said.

The party that submits the allegation or appeal would be the only party able to withdraw it, and would have to do so in writing.

“If you have the allegation submitted, then the Judicial Council is aware that something is happening,” junior James Deitsch, senator for Fisher Hall, said. “Then the Judicial Council is just sitting on information that a candidate broke a rule?”

However, the Judicial Council is restricted in their ability to act on unfiled election allegations.

“I mean, we do that now,” Ross said. “People come to the office and say, ‘Oh, I saw this happening but I don’t want to file anything.’ I don’t have the power to launch an allegation.”

Along with Deitsch, junior Sebastian Lopez, senator for O’Neill Hall, and junior chief of staff Prathm Juneja supported amending Judicial Council’s ability to follow through on unfiled allegations in the future.

“I wonder if we could build an investigative arm into Judicial Council,” Juneja said.

Next Wednesday is the current senate’s final meeting of its term, making that day the last time it would be able to make the change.

The senate also passed resolutions allowing petitioning and campaigning in the Duncan Student Center, requiring the release of student body election turnout and result percentages, allowing the Judicial Council vice president to attend appeal meetings and giving senate the ability to temporarily suspend any rule of the Constitution by a five-sixths vote.

Margaret Morgan, director of residential life, and Heather Rakoczy Russell, associate vice president for residential life, discussed the waiver policy for the six-semester housing requirement.

“The waiver process has not been built yet,” Russell said. “The listening sessions we’ve been engaging students in is to ask if you have any strong feelings about what that waiver should look like, or what it shouldn’t look like.”

Based on their conversations with students, Residential Life is looking into a system that uses campus allies to advocate for students who wish to waive the housing requirement, Russell said.

“[Allies] could be other administrators, but people who students would feel comfortable telling their stories to and those people could be trained in a way that they could make the recommendation to Residential Life and preserve the anonymity,” Russell said.

The ally system uses the same advocacy idea as the waiver system designed by the Waiver Policy Subcommittee of student senate.

Residential Life also hopes to make interhall transfer easier in the future, in order to encourage students to remain on campus and allow them to live where they want, Russell said.

Student senate also approved the nomination of Matt Ross for the Michael J. Palumbo Award.

Sara Dugan, senior class president and acting chair of the Student Union Ethics Commission, nominated Ross for the award.

“As Judicial Council president, Matthew has displayed exemplary fairness, commitment and ethicality throughout his term,” Dugan said. “Matthew also worked tirelessly, honorably and empathetically during a particularly demanding election cycle this spring.”

Brankin, who, as parliamentarian, works closely with Ross, also supported the nomination.

“I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this award,” Brankin said. “He is one of the nicest and most genuine people you’ll ever meet.”

Student senate voted on the recipients of the Frank O’Malley Undergraduate Teaching Award and the two Irish Clover awards.

Nancy Michael, an assistant teaching professor of neuroscience and behavior, won the O’Malley award, and Fr. Don LaSalle and senior student body president Rebecca Blais won the Irish Clover awards.

“Now seeing how much Prathm and Sib and Becca do as the leaders of the student body, for Becca to be vice president and know how much work it is, and then still want to be president this year, that just shows her dedication to student government,” Huffman said.

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About Mary Bernard

Mary Bernard is a senior with a major in Anthropology and a minor in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and is the Social Media Editor for The Observer, managing and overseeing all things audience engagement.

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