SA Senate approves first bill in series of bylaw updates

Media Credit: Donna Armstrong | Contributing Photo Editor

Sen. AJ Link, Law-G, answers a question about bylaw language at an SA Senate meeting Monday night.

Updated: Oct. 31, 2018 at 1:35 p.m.

The Student Association Senate unanimously passed a bill Monday night editing the first section of the group’s bylaws – the first installment of a series of measures that will update one of the SA’s governing documents this year.

The bill updates the Level 100 bylaws, which outline the SA’s operational rules, to clarify several terms, update pronouns, and correct spelling and grammatical errors. SA Senators said the updates are part of an ongoing effort to comb through each section of the document to clarify language that may prevent senators from fully understanding SA rules.

“This is the first of many to come,” Sen. Finley Wetmore, SEAS-U and a sponsor of the bill, said.

The bill clarifies senate meeting attendance rules to include language about senators who are virtually present or present by proxy at a meeting. The bill also allows senators who have last-minute commitments to obtain an excused absence from senate meetings if they cannot find a proxy in time and submit documentation to committee chairs.

Formal definitions of senators’ and SA leaders’ constituencies were also moved to a different section of the bylaws.

Sen. AJ Link, Law-G, said the updates to language about absences will ensure that senators who are unable to obtain a last-minute proxy are not penalized for unexcused absences. Under the current bylaws, senators are suspended if they miss three senate meetings.

“What we’re really doing is we’re lowering the ceiling,” Link said. “Given how busy students can become, I want to leave it as open as possible for the chairs to say ‘hey, this is an excused absence.’”

Also at Monday’s meeting, Ojani Walthrust, the SA’s executive vice president, said he annulled former SA Sen. Imani Ross’ role as chief policy adviser, a newly created position that Ross assumed two weeks ago, after hearing a “difference in opinion” about the position from senators. Under the bylaws, the executive vice president possesses the authority to appoint a secretary, parliamentarian and “additional aides” – but the bylaws do not explicitly permit the creation of a chief policy adviser position, he said.

Walthrust said Ross will continue to work with him in an unofficial role until the senate confirms her to a new role that is “more befitting to our needs.” Her role will be discussed and voted on at the next meeting.

“I am happy that our pro temp is keeping me accountable as I am making sure to keep all of you accountable,” Walthrust said.

Sen. Anisha Hindocha, Law-G and senate pro-tempore, said the approval of Ross’ position violated the bylaws because Ross acted as a director rather than an aide. Ross’ job title was “chief policy director.”

Hindocha said she would be more comfortable reconfirming Ross as an aide once her position is clearly outlined in front of the senate.

“I don’t feel that a director is an aide,” she said. “I think you can look up a thesaurus definition of what an aide is, a directorship is not going to show up there.”

The senate also unanimously confirmed one student to serve on the SA’s diversity and inclusion assembly and eight students to serve on Faculty Senate committees. Senators criticized SA President Ashley Le at a meeting earlier this month for appointing students to the Faculty Senate committees without senate approval, a violation of the group’s governing documents.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that Ross’ job title was “chief policy adviser.” It was “chief policy director.” We regret this error.

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