ASUAF is broken
Jeremia Schrock / Sun Star Columnist
April 12, 2011
The ASUAF senate has a laundry list of problems. Many of these problems are inherent to the organization itself but some have very little to do with the senators directly. That does not mean that senators are blameless, only that the issues of ASUAF are deeply entrenched and will take either a miracle worker or a voter referendum to fix.
As an example, on March 20 the senate voted on Senate Resolution (SR) 176-002: Amendability of Legislation’s Purpose. Sen. Jennifer Chambers, who doubles as the senate’s parliamentarian, wrote the resolution. A parliamentarian acts as an adviser for the senate, interpreting both the senate’s rules of procedure (how it governs itself), as well as its bylaws (actual legislation).
Chambers wrote the resolution to ensure that a bill’s purpose could not be amended on the floor, with the logic being that a loophole might enable someone other then the bill’s sponsors to change the intent of a bill. The consensus on the senate floor was that while the issue wasn’t a big deal, it was better to err on the side of caution. The senate voted in favor of the resolution.
The following week, ASUAF President Nicole Carvajal vetoed it. Her veto was mentioned during the next senate meeting, but nothing came of it. The veto stood and the senate moved on.
However, Chambers emailed the ASUAF ListServe stating that, as it was a senate resolution, Carvajal could not veto it. Chambers cited the senates own rules of procedure, which read (in part) that “a resolution is not an ‘act’ of the Senate, and is not subject to Veto…” Essentially, the president cannot veto senate resolutions that amend the senate’s rules of procedure.
I spoke to Carvajal and Chambers about the issue. Carvajal believed that the veto should stand since the senate had had the opportunity to overturn the veto and didn’t. As Chambers saw it, the resolution was effective because it could not be overturned in the first place.
In an effort to have the issue laid to rest, Chambers said that Duffy would speak with Sabra Phillips, ASUAF’s Executive Officer. Phillips oversees the financial side of ASUAF and settles disputes among the senate. As of April 8, Phillips said that she was aware of the situation but had not yet been contacted by any member of the student government.
My own review of the senate’s rules shows that Chambers is correct. The president cannot veto a senate resolution that is amending the rules of procedure, plain and simple. The fact that the resolution went unchallenged on the senate floor says less about the senate’s investment in the resolution than in their ignorance of their own rules.
This is one of the biggest problems with the student government: for the most part, they don’t know what they’re doing. To be fair, the inspiration to read the bylaws and rules of procedure isn’t there. Unless a senator is either the Senate Chair or Senate Clerk (parliamentarian), they do their jobs unpaid. In fact, many of them have jobs elsewhere on top of taking a full load of classes. Still, senators know they are unpaid going into the job, which means they either a) need to start giving a damn or b) get off the senate and let those who actually care about students get to work.
This may be harsh, but it’s also true. This past school year saw the ASUAF government receive more than $460,000 from student fees, which means the people spending (or not spending) student money should know what they’re doing. The student government needs to be an opportunity to enrich the lives of all students, not just a chance to pad the resumes of a few.