SA holds attendance review session, introduces three bills

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EMMA FORD AND KIM LORES / THE FLAT HAT

At the Sept. 24 meeting of the College of William and Mary’s Student Assembly, senators held an Attendance Review session regarding Sen. Liam Watson ’20’s failure to attend five committees and the SA retreat because of his extenuating work requirements. As a result of these missed SA functions, Watson was marked for over three absences, which prompted an attendance review per SA code.

SA code states that “Each Senator is allowed three absences per semester. After every third absence, the Senator will come before the Senate, at the following meeting, to explain his or her reason(s) for not being present at the missed meetings.  A senator shall be notified that he or she is up for attendance review prior to the general meeting.”

The Code goes on to say that immediately following a second attendance review and six absences, the Senate must serve an article of impeachment.

Watson said that his absences stem from working two jobs. One of Watson’s jobs requires him to leave Williamsburg Thursday evenings, when he travels to the western region of Virginia and remains there until 2 p.m. the following Monday. While pursuing his employment off campus, Watson also takes care of his grandfather, who is suffering from cancer. Due to these commitments, Watson has been unable to attend Sunday SA committee meetings, which take place weekly from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Griggs house.

No final decision was made regarding Watson’s committee requirements. Watson, however, promised he would work with his schedule to call in to committee meetings on Sunday, which would fulfill the attendance requirement.

However, Class of 2021 President Aria Austin ’21 questioned whether calling in would be sufficient enough to fulfill Watson’s attendance.

“If this is something that’s going to roll over to next semester too, which is a concern that you’re attending these meetings, and you’re not going to be there — you can call in when you can, but that’s not the same as being there,” Austin said.

The attendance review also raised questions over the role of excused and unexcused absences that the senate secretary assigns when senators miss meetings for certain reasons. Prior to Watson’s attendance review, all excused absences deemed by the secretary of Senate went unmarked as a missed absence.

However, after a submission to the Review Board for guidance, the board stated that attendance reviews must occur after three absences, whether excused or not excused by the secretary of the Senate.

“There is no distinction here between “excused” or “unexcused” absences,” wrote Review Board Chair Henry Blackburn ‘20 in the Board’s official opinion. “The Code only states that attendance review happens after three absences, full stop, independent of the practice of the Senate. We have varying opinions on what the usefulness of the “excused” and “unexcused”  terms mean and are probably used for, but the Code seems unambiguous—three absences of any sort necessitate an attendance review, and a bill of impeachment is automatically introduced after the second attendance review (independent of whether anyone decides to pass the bill).”

Sen. Chair Anthony Joseph ’21 explained that the Senate values the importance of senators honoring their commitments, but emphasized that SA members should continue living their lives as students at the College.

“It’s a balancing act,” Joseph said.  “We have to figure out how to honor the commitments that we made when we took this oath and what’s written in our code as well as living our lives…It’s just trying to figure out what’s fair for everyone in this room.”

Three new bills were also introduced to the Senate. Secretary of Student Health Shreya Mandava ’20 introduced the Subsidized Emergency Contraception Act, which was sponsored by Sens. Jahnavi Prabhala ’22 and Sen. Maggie Wells ’21.

The bill calls for SA to subsidize the cost of Plan B, an emergency contraceptive, so that it can be purchased for only $5 over the counter at the Student Health Center. The Health Center already subsidizes the cost, but to a much smaller extent. The act would allocate $3,000 for the purchase of these contraceptives and an additional $7 for the purchase of the flyers.

Sen. Patrick Salsburg ’21 then introduced the GOTV Act of 2019, which calls for funding for more Get out the Vote efforts ahead of Election Day.  The bill would allocate $70 for the printing of 1,000 election flyers and $14 for the printing of 200 sample ballots, so that students can see who is running for local office.

Also at this week’s meeting:

  • Meghana Boojala ’22 introduced the Fifth Biannual Transfers & More Community Act, which would allocate $950 for the upcoming biannual transfers community event taking place at Brickhouse Tavern.
  • Vice President Ellie Thomas ’20 reminded senators that elections for Class of 2023 President and senators are taking place this Thursday, Sept. 26.