Seven Student Association senators were suspended last month for missing too many meetings.
All seven senators failed to attend at least 40 percent of SA meetings, SA Executive Vice President Thomas Falcigno said – meaning they can be suspended according to SA bylaws. That is the largest group of senators to be simultaneously suspended in recent years, and marks the first time the attendance policy has been seriously enforced since 2009.
Attendance has been a major priority for Falcigno, who warned senators when he was sworn in three weeks ago that they would be removed from the SA if they were chronically absent from meetings.
At the Student Association debate last month, Falcigno said senators should “do work or get out.” He said last week that suspending the senators was his first task after assuming the role of EVP.
“I was very serious about trying to make sure that people who don’t show up to meetings don’t get to serve,” he said.
The suspended senators were barred from the March 21 SA meeting. Falcigno said they can apply for reinstatement, otherwise they would have to vacate their seats until next year’s senate is sworn in.
With less than a month left in the current term, he said senators who don’t ask to be reinstated would likely remain suspended until the new senate is sworn in because a formal petition would be required to officially remove them.
Two of the suspended senators, Rohan Bhargava, ESIA-U, and Rumzee Kulath, SoB-G, have already resigned from the SA, Falcigno said. A third, Jeffrey Robin, Law-G, said in an email he wouldn’t apply for reinstatement.
All but one of the suspended senators are graduate students. Graduate senators said the nature of their studies often prevents them from being able to attend meetings, and Robin said “so little of the legislation considered by the senate directly affects graduate students.”
Sen. Brandon Bernier, SEAS-G, said in an email that there is “room for more graduate involvement.” He describes himself as “not the typical grad student” because this is his sixth year at GW.
“I have become more invested in what happens at GW the longer I have been here,” he said.
He also said that it’s difficult for most graduate students, who only attend GW for two years, to find their way to the SA. Involvement in elections would be the first step to more participation, Bernier said.
“As we just saw in the recent SA elections, many grad positions had no candidates running for them, and I would love to see that turn around in the future,” he said.
The suspensions come before one of the SA’s most important meetings of the year: approving budget allocations for student organizations for the next academic year.
Still, Falcigno said he wasn’t interested in senators who were “taking up space while there are others who want to serve.”
He said he would continue enforcing the senate’s attendance rules next year, adding that past executive vice presidents did not enforce them. Last February, former Executive Vice President Avra Bossov reprimanded the senate for not being adequately prepared for meetings.
“It’s not that hard. Forty percent of meetings, you can miss. That’s a lot of meetings,” Falcigno said.
In 2009, two SA senators were suspended for chronically missing meetings.
At least two of the suspended senators – Kevin Nadai, CPS-G, and Brandon Brown, GSEHD-G – said they will apply for reinstatement. Three suspended senators did not return requests for comment.
Nadai said his suspicion notice “came without warning” and “seems to be much ado about nothing.” Nadai is a distance student based in Michigan and the only representative for the College of Professional Studies. He also works full-time in addition to his graduate studies, making it impossible for him to regularly attend meetings, he said.
Nadai said in the past he has worked with other senators over phone and email, and voted via proxy. Since he will be away from campus during Monday’s SA meeting, which will include his reinstatement hearing, Nadai has arranged to appear remotely or have a statement read aloud.
“Perhaps Thomas ‘The Hammer’ Falcigno does not deserve this nickname after all,” Nadai said.
At his reinstatement hearing, Nadai plans on arguing three points: CPS deserves representation throughout the entire term, a suspension serves no purpose this close to the end of a term and distance students should have different attendance requirements.
“If that’s all my suspension accomplishes, I will consider it a successful failure,” he said.