Student Assembly senate holds discussions on accountability, senate procedure

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Class of 2021 President David DeMarco '21 gave a presentation on accountability within the senate. EMMA FORD / THE FLAT HAT

The Nov. 27 meeting of the College of William and Mary Student Assembly senate focused on encouraging accountability among senators and clarifying basic senate operational procedures.

Class of 2021 President David DeMarco ’21 led the discussion about senator accountability. He said that there is more to a senator’s duties than simply “showing up,” and that he believed the position requires an obligation to be a public servant.

“We all swore to uphold the constitution of the Student Assembly, but not all of us knows what that means,” DeMarco said. “How am I holding myself up to abiding the oath of office? Am I achieving what I thought I would be achieving when I first came in?”

According to DeMarco, senators have a responsibility to seek out their constituents and inquire about the issues that pertain to them and should not wait for their constituents to come to them with their problems.  Acting in this role of “public servant” also requires the senators to care about and serve their communities, especially through community service projects.

The discussion led to propositions among senators that the senate should resolve its issues with accountability by making some changes in the body, such as instituting minimum requirements for senator activity and checking up on individual senators’ ongoing projects and bills.

His fellow SA members, including Class of 2020 President Kelsey Vita ’20 and Sen. Jahnavi Prabhala ’22, responded by saying that accountability is something that should be dealt with through changing the senate’s culture, not its code.  Senate Chair Ellie Thomas ’20 agreed, and said that the senate has the ability to enact bills of impeachment and that senators are held accountable through elections.

Sen. Jack Bowden ’19 argued that elections do not hold senators accountable because according to Bowden, students are not confident in the senate’s ability to get a lot of work done during session.

“We are broken,” Bowden said, referring to the senate. “I don’t think our peers give a s–  about our body. I really don’t think they care. They don’t, they really don’t. You can quote me, they don’t.”

SA Vice President Samir Tawalare ’19 said that he would hesitate to characterize the perception in any one way.

“I just want to definitely remind us that it’s a complex and multifaceted perception of this Student Assembly that is shared amongst the rest of our student body so I just would hesitate to characterize it one way when I do think different members of the body as a whole interact with this assembly differently,” Tawalare said.

At the beginning of the meeting, Sen. Anthony Joseph ’21 gave a presentation about enacting an SA-specific version of Robert’s Rules of Order.  Robert’s Rules of Order are a set of procedures used during parliamentary and legislative meetings.

Joseph told his fellow senators that enacting some of these rules and common procedures – such as instituting time limits for all discussions, shortening the weekly agenda and using roll call votes on all important issues – could greatly improve the conciseness of senate meetings and the effectiveness of the senate overall.

He also wants to create the position of a parliamentarian, who would know all of these rules well and be able to correct senators when they are deviating from them.

At the end of the meeting, senators passed the Special Election Revision Act after much debate and ambiguity about the voting procedures.  The act, which seeks to clarify when new senators are appointed as opposed to when special elections should be held, received 17 “yay” votes and five “nay” votes.

However, there was a lack of clarity in the SA constitution about whether code changes need a “yay” vote from two-thirds of the vote of the entire senate or just from the quorum.

Ultimately, Tawalare, as vice president, made the call that the code required a two-thirds vote from the quorum, allowing the bill to pass.  DeMarco said that he might bring a case about the validity of the vote to the SA Review Board.

Also at this week’s meeting:

  • SA inaugurated Sen. Cody Mills ’20, Sen. Zie Medrano ’20, and Sen. JonDavid Nichols ’20, making them the official representatives of the class of 2020.
  • The Constitutional Review Committee Act that sought to increase participation and diversity on the Constitutional Review Committee was withdrawn by its sponsor Class of 2021 President David DeMarco ’21.
  • Sen. Anthony Joseph ’21 introduced the Martin Luther King Day Bill.  The bill proposes that SA team up with the Center for Student Diversity to fund author and journalist Roland Martin, who would give a talk reflecting on the teaching of Martin Luther King Jr., as well as discuss current issues concerning the black community.
  • The Strangers No S’more Act has been postponed to next semester because the class of 2022 was unable to obtain a fire permit in time for the original date of Dec. 1.
  • Sen. Alec Friedman ’19, who sponsored the Reusable Mug Sustainability Incentive Act, announced that the event will be happening Dec. 3 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the Sadler Terrace.  Students who bring reusable mugs will be given free coffee from Aromas.

Editor’s Note: The Flat Hat would like to clarify that Jack Bowden ’19 is a Webmaster for the paper. His involvement with Student Assembly is not on behalf of the paper’s interests.