Student Association senators will vote Monday on a bill that demands more accountability on their part, requiring proof that senators follow up on bills they draft and vote in person.
SA Senate President Pro Tempore Michael Amesquita designed a bill that would amend bylaws and require senators to attend 60 percent of meetings – double the current mandate for meeting attendance.
Amesquita, a second-year graduate student senator, said he wants to reform a reputation of frequent absences and little achievement among the elected members. The bill is backed by Executive Vice President Abby Bergren, who pledged in her campaign last spring to demand more action and accountability from the 38-member voting body.
The senate meets about 15 times per year, and Amesquita pointed out that five senators have only attended one or no meetings so far this year. If students can’t meet the time commitment, they should step down from their senate positions, Amesquita said.
“I’m sure there are other students out there who love this, and if they can’t devote enough time to the SA, then they should consider resigning,” Amesquita said.
Bergren said the senate has had between four to nine absences each meeting – which at most adds up to 25 percent of the group.
“We have strength in numbers and the more people who show up, the more power we have as a body,” Bergren said. “If you are elected by the student body, you should be there. If we only pass one thing this year, if it’s a good thing and it leads to a tangible result with the student body, it will be a success.”
The bill would also eliminate the practice of proxy voting, when an absent senator allows another senator to vote on his or her behalf.
Amesquita, who chairs the leadership committee, said the largest roadblock to the bill is the “old guard.” He said new senators “really want to step up and have a better SA.”
The bill also includes a clause that would require a sponsor to follow up on a passed bill and give two reports to the senate before a month since the bill was passed. Bills are nonbinding resolutions that the SA has historically used as a bargaining chip with administrators.
“We’ve really tried to instill that this is a commitment, and we’re going to push you,” Bergren added. “Not only are we going to push you, we’re going to make sure you do it.”
As the leader of the senate, Bergren asked senators this year to put in more time before bringing a bill to the floor to cut down on senators wasting meeting time by nitpicking. She said senators should come to the floor with bills that need no debate because “senate meetings are where we publish our work – not where we do our work.”
As a graduate student, Amesquita said he knows balancing senate meetings and night classes can be tough, but all senators should commit to planning class schedules around meetings.
Graduate senators, who make up a majority of senate seats which are far less competitive, typically attend fewer meetings and draft fewer bills each year than undergraduates. Amesquita said he wants to change the involvement of the graduate student group.
“We have more graduate students than undergraduate students, so it’s important that graduate senators attend as many meetings as possible,” Amesquita said.
The SA Senate has continually drawn fire for accomplishing little. In a rare confrontation between the SA president and senators last year, then-SA President John Richardson accused his senate for not taking on issues affecting their student constituencies.
That group was criticized for bringing few bills to the table, while the 2010 senate was criticized for focusing on internal reform. That year, the senate disbanded its rules committee to stress other academic and student life committees.
Chloé Sorvino contributed to this report.