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Bylaw could censure senators with poor attendance

‘it’s in our oath to attend senate meetings,’ Brooks says

Published: February 13, 2009
Section: News

Student Union senators who miss more than two senate meetings will automatically be considered for censure if a new senate bylaw authored by Executive Senator Andrew Brooks ‘09 gets passed next Sunday.

Currently, senators are excused from their two-hour long senate sessions Sunday nights if it is for “extenuating circumstances.”

But according to Brooks, who is also acting senate President, lately, senators have been abusing the “extenuating circumstances” clause and skipping sessions for study groups and dinner with friends.

“Extenuating circumstances should be for things that are beyond a person’s control. Like if your flight is delayed,” Brooks explained. “While academics are certainly priorities, academic-related excuses do not count as extenuating because you can control them.”

The new bylaw, if passed would define extenuating circumstances as an incident outside of a person’s control and also limit senators to two excused absences as part of what Brooks calls “closing the loop hole left by the old bylaw.”

Brooks believes that such limitations are fair because “showing up [to meetings] is our job.”

“This is something we all choose to do, we all choose to run. No one forces us,” he said. “It’s in our oath that we will be at meetings.”

Brooks also said he believes that a senator’s failure to attend meetings is a failure to do their constitutional duty, saying that it is a senator’s job to represent his or her constituents and if a senator does not attend meetings, he or she cannot vote on legislation and appropriately represent his or her constituents.

He also mentioned that with the current economic crisis, the Senate has been having meetings with senior administrators at which they are given information they are supposed to disseminate to their voters.

If a senator misses a meeting with an administrator, Brooks said, a sector of the student body will be left out of the loop of what’s happening on campus.

“This is a big deal,” he said. “Also, if we have poor attendance when we meet with these administrators, they are going to think that we are disinterested and mis-perceive the student body as apathetic. We need to be there to show that we care and that the student body wants transparency.”

Under the bylaw, if a senator fails to meet the attendance requirements, the topic of censuring that senator will automatically be put on the docket for that meeting.

The censure, a formal condemnation of the senator’s actions, would have no actual repercussions as far as the senator’s duties are concerned.

Brooks also mentioned that while impeachment is not explicitly mentioned in the resolution, any senator can have charges of impeachment brought against him or her for breaching any bylaw at anytime—meaning that if a senator fails to meet the new attendance requirements, he or she technically could be subject to an impeachment trial.

Ultimately, Brooks said, he wants to ensure that senators take their jobs seriously.

“If you are no longer interested in doing this job and you don’t have your heart in it, we won’t hold it against you,” he said. “But then please, just step down.”