SA Senate starts the semester with eight vacancies to fill

Media Credit: File Photo by Donna Armstrong | Contributing Photo Editor

SA Executive Vice President Ojani Walthrust said some senators left to prioritize classes or begin a new job, but most departing senators quit because they are studying abroad this semester.

The Student Association Senate will have a handful of seats to fill this month.

Six SA senators departed over winter break, leaving the group with eight total vacancies heading into the spring semester. The number of openings marks a sharp increase from the beginning of the academic year when the senate boasted just four empty seats – the fewest in at least three years.

SA leaders said that, as in years past, the additional vacancies could delay legislation and other projects as new members adjust to their roles.

“The whole month of January will just mean recruitment, and once the senators are confirmed, we want to make sure they get caught up on projects and procedures the senate has to follow,” SA President Ashley Le said. “I think that will take a couple more weeks for them to get used to the flow of things.”

The senate now has five empty graduate and three open undergraduate positions spanning four schools. Four departing senators declined to comment, and former Sen. Scott Barber, SMHS-G, did not return multiple requests to comment.

Former Sen. Harsh Bagde, G-at-Large, said he decided to leave because he often had late-night classes and could not make senate meetings every other Monday at 9 p.m. The senate’s attendance policy dictates that senators who miss three consecutive meetings will be suspended.

He added that senate meetings are often “unnecessarily extended” by a few senators discussing “mundane” topics.

“Few voices in the room are very aggressive and push ideas rather than having an equal or healthy debate,” he said in an email.

SA Executive Vice President Ojani Walthrust said some senators left to prioritize classes or begin a new job, but most departing senators quit because they are studying abroad this semester.

“The turnover means there will be new senators who are willing to make important changes and achieve policy goals,” Walthrust said in an email.

Walthrust said he is trying to retain more senators throughout the spring by scheduling individual meetings with members and checking in on projects “instead of putting the onus on them to meet with me.” He declined to say which senators he has scheduled meetings with so far and which senators he met with last semester.

He added that he is encouraging senators to contact students in their respective schools who may be interested in joining the SA. He also emailed student organization leaders and asked officials in each school to publish the senate vacancy application in their newsletters to advertise available positions, he said.

Walthrust declined to say how many applications the SA received to fill empty seats and when in the semester he expects to fill vacancies. Applications opened Jan. 8, and interviews will take place between Jan. 25 and 27.

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