There's still time to get it right

Heather Bryant/ Sun Star Editor-in-Chief
March 27, 2012

Last semester I was told that I try to make ASUAF look bad. I have no interest in making ASUAF look bad. Honestly, ASUAF makes itself look bad.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some people in ASUAF who try hard. Robert Kinnard III is a great example of a senator who works hard to do the right thing. I urge more senators follow his lead.

He has repeatedly brought up the issue of senator accountability at senate meetings.

“A lot of students feel like we pick and choose what bylaws we follow,” Kinnard said.

Recently there has been a series of removals from the ASUAF senate due to excessive absences. However, the attendance policy is not evenly applied. Some senators are removed and others remain in the senate after motions to remove them do not receive enough votes.

Senator Absences - Spring 2012

During the Feb. 26 meeting, Michael Golub and Timothy Grediagin were put up for removal for accumulating too many absences. Neither senator was removed.

Some senators were upset at the result of the meeting, ASUAF President Mari Freitag said.

“They felt like it’s more important to be accountable and follow our own bylaws than to keep people on the senate to give them another chance,” she said.

During the March 4 meeting, Grediagin and Golub were again put up for removal for excessive absences. This time Grediagin was removed by a vote of 8-4-2 and Golub was not. In the same meeting Sophia Grzeskowiak-Amezquita and McKinley Zakurdaew were also put up for removal for absences. Grzeskowiak-Amezquita was removed by a vote of 7-0-4, but Zakurdaew was not. Will Collingwood resigned because of excessive absences.

Senators are automatically removable after accumulating three unexcused absences, six excused absences or a combination of unexcused and excused absences.

“You can’t take into account any sort of integrity or character or anything like that,” Freitag said. “It has to be purely based on absences, which some senators have trouble with.”

PDF of Senator removals due to violations of the ASUAF attendance policy

Senators are expected to serve on at least one committee, attend weekly senate meetings and hold two office hours each week. It’s a commitment of approximately five hours. Realistically, that’s not a high bar.

Here’s the thing, integrity or character isn’t supposed to be taken into account. But clearly personal feelings are coming into play, because senators are not being removed after having too many absences.

For those senators voting against removal, I want you to keep something in mind. When someone makes a commitment, swearing an oath to do something, and then doesn’t bother to show up, that says a lot about that person’s character and integrity.

The absences are a big part of the image problems plaguing the student government. ASUAF has a public relations problem. Senators breaking bylaws and not facing consequences are only going to make it worse.

A number of senators are pursuing a reduction in senate size. This solution would increase competition for senate seats and result in more proactive senators. Kinnard supports the effort. The size should be decreased temporarily and raised later when there is better participation, he said.

“This would also reduce the number of seats filled by presidential appointment,” ASUAF Vice President Dillon Ball said. “I am strongly of the opinion that officials should be selected by the voters, and not the president whenever possible.” The measure would also increase ASUAF’s accountability to voters, Ball said.

Freitag disagrees with the solution. Freitag said there are better ways to solve the problem.

“Reducing it that much will allow for competition, which is always good,” Freitag said. “But I’d rather not sacrifice diversity for competition over seats.”

Kinnard and Freitag agree that there should be some form of incentive for senators. The incentive could be monetary, such as a service award. The award would be contingent on attendance and service.

However, I strongly urge ASUAF not to vote for any monetary awards solely for itself. If ASUAF is going to create service awards, it needs to extend beyond ASUAF to other volunteer organizations on campus. To do otherwise is self-serving. ASUAF would be approving the expenditure of student fees for senators.

You know that moment of disgust when you hear about state and national representatives voting for their own pay raise? This is the same concept. If ASUAF is going to move ahead with this plan, they need to do it right. At least put a question on the spring ballot about the issue and let students add their voice to this idea.

Personally, I don’t object to the idea of service awards. I think it’s important to recognize people for service and hard work. What I do have a problem with is the idea that money can solve problems created by a system where the rules aren’t followed to begin with.

Just like in journalism, if you’re in public service for the money and the recognition, you’re in the wrong field.

“A lot of senators are like ‘we’re just volunteers, so if we’re making it to some of the meetings then that’s good enough.’ But that’s not good enough,” Kinnard said. “Because when we took an oath, we’re saying we have the time for this commitment, that we’re going to do it and serve the students to the best of our ability.”

“If we’re not taking it seriously, we’re violating our oath,” Kinnard said.

A recurring question that is being asked  both in and outside of ASUAF is whether the group should have an advisor. Last year the senate dismissed attempts to create an advisor position. The topic is still strongly opposed.

An advisor is exactly the type of assistance ASUAF needs. Every single student on campus is required to have an advisor. A student club cannot be created without an advisor.

ASUAF manages more than half a million dollars each year and they don’t have an advisor. If ASUAF wants to increase their accountability with students, they need to get an official advisor. Arguments against having someone tell them what to do are baseless considering ASUAF can outline the duties and powers of the position.

The Sun Star has an advisor and that fact has never stopped an editor from publishing whatever he or she wanted. Our advisor is one of our biggest assets, because like ASUAF, our staff is a transient one. There needs to be someone with institutional knowledge helping the senators.

There are seven weeks of school left and an election coming up, ASUAF. Be the student government that we know you can be and need you to be. Get an advisor, remove the senators who don’t bother to show up, and publish meeting minutes in a timely and readable manner.

You may also like...

4 Responses

  1. John Jacob Jingleheimer-Smith says:

    “ASUAF manages more than half a million dollars each year and they don’t have an advisor. If ASUAF wants to increase their accountability with students, they need to get an official advisor.”

    Amen.

    ASUAF is one of the least respectable organizations on campus. They need adult supervision and a greatly-reduced student fee until they can prove to the students they are worthy stewards of our money.

  2. Jennifer Chambers says:

    If the student government fee was decreased, the Sun Star, KSUA, and Concert Board would also have less funds since 49% of the $35/student taking 3 credits or more goes to those groups. I also think that the half a million dollar budget is misleading since 49% of it goes to those groups and a staff person is paid out of the remaining 51%, reducing that amount substantially. While I am not completely opposed to the idea of an advisor, I would like to know how it would be in the students’ best interest to have a second paid staff member out of those funds. I would expect that the direct result of adding an advisor would be to cut student travel funding and club funding to cover the costs of that position. Finally, I am concerned about the effect that adding an advisor had on other student governments in the UA system.

  3. Tylenol PM says:

    [shush]Stop the presses! Jennifer Chambers doesn’t see the value of adding more oversight to her organization.

    The notion that creating an advisor position would decrease funding for student travel and club funding is purposely misleading. There is plenty of room in the budget to create an advisor position.

    The fact that ASUAF is opposed to having an advisor should be an indication of its need. If ASUAF is unwilling to accept adult supervision, the students should reduce their fee through a ballot initiative in favor of organizations that have advisors. KSUA, the Sun Star, and Concert Board have revenue streams that could be supplemented by a small fee. I think the students would be quite satisfied with establishing a fee to fund those organizations while cutting out the middleman of negligible worth (ASUAF).[/shush]

  4. Chris says:

    Why should an advisor be a paid advisor? Many organizations benefit from a volunteer or faculty advisor. Crying poor is itself a poor excuse. As is not challenging the allocation to KSUA that is mismanaged and overly generous. Nothing is written in stone if the “leadership” chose to actually be any kind of leader.

    Other organizations benefit from an advisor. What ones are you maintaining do not? And which of them, if there are any you can demonstrate, haven’t benefited according to their own self-centered, lazy membership rather than according to the outside groups they are meant to serve?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *