The 82nd Student Congress has adjourned, leaving in its wake a mixed record of accomplishments-and controversy.
The improvement over last year’s Students’ Association-in which even president Jeremy Smith stopped attending meetings-is immeasurable. Thus, we start by focusing on
At least half of Congress cared enough about the student body to enact legislation aimed at improving students’ lives and safety.
Vice president-elect Melanie Booker’s multi-year campaigning on crosswalks helped push the city to paint new ones on Campus Court and East North 16th Streets.
Rep. Elizabeth Alvarez, Administration Building, began the publication of the Alpha information packet, which should dramatically increase the communication between SA and the student groups it serves.
Susanne Drehsel, International Students Association liaison, and Rep. Erin Baldwin, Ad Building, introduced the Faith Plan, a unique but badly flawed bill that served its ultimate purpose anyway-showing the students and administration that Congress cares about the workings and processes in the Administration Building.
Congress grasped parliamentary procedure quickly and conducted the business portion of its meetings better than any time in the past three years.
The executive officers ceded control of the budget to Congress in the spring semester-a move that unfortunately ended in a convoluted, three-week approval process. But we commend president Jonathan Wilkerson, vice president Layne Rouse and treasurer David Shinn for reversing Smith’s unconstitutional and dictatorial XO-only budget policy.
Congress continues to do important work on the following projects: revamping the university’s inconvenient Meal Plan/Bean Bucks system, improving SATV and its news program, providing funds and help to next year’s film festival and looking for ways to improve the campus.
However, with the good, the student body has suffered because of:
The executive officers and Congress several times betrayed the students’ confidence in their stewardship.
In the fall, the executive officers presented a budget and proceeded to give Congress a false impression that its approval was necessary for student groups to receive money. After two hours of bickering and accusations, Congress left the budget unapproved, and the groups got their money anyway.
Some members of Congress were so outraged by alleged inconsistencies in the budget, they called for an investigatory committee, which was promptly left unfilled for two weeks after Congress los quorum in the middle of the debate.
The officers, meanwhile, failed to provide advance copies of the budget, moved slowly in making copies available and antagonized several student groups with their seeming inability to give consistent explanations for budget cuts.
In the spring, the officers did a better job of presenting a clear budget, but most Congress members left the meeting for church before the budget could be brought for a vote.
And a growing apathy toward its governing documents has left the 83rd Congress with:
A consistent and continuing disregard for the Constitution and By-Laws are leaving the documents a mess and creating a culture of unethical behavior by the officers and Congress.
This year, the president refused to cite Congress members who left before voting took place. Eight members missed more than half the meetings without a public rebuke outside the Optimist, even though SA’s Constitution requires they be impeached and removed from office.
A continuing disrespect of Constitutional attendance requirements will only cause further problems and further embarrassment to the Students’ Association.
At least two of last year’s By-Law amendments are missing, necessitating another bill to fix a clause that had already been amended the same way.
In two years, a willful ignorance of the law has led to numerous complaints, accusations and embarrassments for SA. Perhaps the new administration will respect its governing documents. Early indications are not good.
The president- and treasurer-elect violated the Student Guide by begging for votes door-to-door in the residence halls, according to the interpretation used by its enforcer, Dean of Campus Life Wayne Barnard.
If this student government cannot police itself, the students have no recourse but to ignore it or replace it, thus reducing SA to a wealthy irrelevancy.
The good Congress has done outnumbers the public embarrassments perpetrated by itself and its executive officers. But those gaffes have a common root, and its implications are far greater than two more crosswalks.