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SA removes five presidents, three senators from senate

By Molly Chiu     2/26/14 9:53am

Five college presidents and three college senators were removed from office at the Monday, Feb. 24 Student Senate meeting for failing to comply with the attendance policy as determined by the Student Association by-laws.

Five college presidents and three college senators were removed from office at the Monday, Feb. 24 Student Senate meeting for failing to comply with the attendance policy as determined by the Student Association by-laws.

McMurtry College President Mason Sanders, Wiess College President Bernard Miller, Sid Richardson College President Caitlin Devereaux, Lovett College President Danny Cohen, Duncan College President Jeremy Scher, Hanszen College Senator Gabrien Clark, Martel College Senator Rachel Sterling and Lovett Senator Christian Neal were all found in violation of an SA by-law which states that presidents and senators are not allowed to miss more than three consecutive or four total SA meetings.

Clark was reinstated because his last absence was within the two week deadline during which a majority vote in the Senate can restore the removed person to office, according to SA President Yoonjin Min. Seats vacated by presidents were filled by the senator from that college, and seats vacated by senators will be left to the college to fill.

According to SA Secretary Nathan Andrus, SA Parliamentarian Brian Baran pointed out an attendance issue to him during the Feb. 17 Student Senate meeting.

“I wasn’t excited about trying to enforce the rule all of the sudden in our last meeting before changeover, especially because of how many people it would affect, but I told him that I would not inhibit his ability to ensure the correct procedure of the constitution,” Andrus said. “He decided it would not be beneficial to try to enforce the rule all of the sudden either, but because rumors surrounding possible impeachments spread somehow, we decided it would be best to address the issue rather than ignoring it, despite the limited real effect doing so would have.”

Baran said he believes the attendance violations should have been noticed sooner.

“It was a gross irresponsibility on the SA’s part that this wasn’t noticed earlier,” Baran said. “For example, I believe one of the presidents had 10 absences and [the fourth absence] is when the automatic removal happens, so that had been going on for a really long time. I think it was the responsibility of the SA and of the executives to be monitoring that.”

Andrus said that, while under his role as SA Secretary it is his job to monitor attendance, he does not believe presidents’ and senators’ total number of absences has been closely checked since last semester.

“To be honest, I have not checked for compliance to that rule for some time, because we don’t have much precedence in enforcing that rule, and it was never a priority of mine, so I never thought about it,” Andrus said.

Andrus and Baran both said future occurrences of this issue could be avoided if the attendance record was put on the SA website.

“It should be available on the SA website so that anyone can look at it because that would reduce the chances of something like this happening,” Baran said. “When you have the whole organization potentially looking out for it, you don’t have just one or two people who have access to it who are then responsible for noticing that this is a problem.”

Min said she did not want to go through with the removals but ultimately decided that it was necessary to follow the by-laws.

“I honestly did not want to remove anyone from office,” Min said. “Because we cannot reinstate people after two weeks from the point where they miss four meetings, we are stuck with their automatic removal. I think it was not warranted; none of the students removed did anything to merit such an action.”

Min said the Constitution’s rules on attendance had not previously come up before this year.

“Because process has come to such a forefront this year — with the election challenge, for example — we decided that we should follow through and thus informed the eight that they [had] been automatically removed,” Min said.

Min said she does not think that these removals should have any effect on what the SA leadership has done this term.

“Although this is a technicality, I did stress to those removed that they are still symbolically a member of the SA officer team,” Min said. “For example, they stayed for the remainder of the SA meeting and will be at Changeover next week.”

Baran said he thinks it is reasonable to have a limitation on how many meetings presidents and senators can miss.

“Part of your responsibility as college president is to represent your college to the university on a campus-wide level,” Baran said. “That’s something you need to do by at least showing up to the Student Senate meetings.”

Lovett Senator Christian Neal said he thought the timing in which the attendance violations were brought up was poor.

“I was disappointed that the SA parliamentarian Brian Baran did not mention this before, because there is a two week window in which we [can] be reinstated by a majority vote of the senate,” Neal said. “I think that the timeliness of this being brought up shows the lack of competence that [Baran] has in interpreting and enforcing the SA constitution.”

According to Baran, he brought the issue up before the final SA meeting because he discovered the violations during the UCourt election hearing while attempting to verify whether members of the Election Committee were approved at a particular meeting.

Neal said he felt the removal of presidents and senators wrongly overshadowed the last SA meeting under the current administration.

“I’m deeply saddened that he brought it up at this point, because I feel like it made a mockery of [Min’s] last Senate meeting,” Neal said. “I feel she has done an excellent job as SA President, along with all of the Executive Board.”

In an email to his college, McMurtry President Mason Sanders said that, although he believes his removal was fair because he was absent from four meetings, he does not regret missing the meetings because he was representing his college elsewhere on those nights.

“While this is regrettable and embarrassing, I spent those meeting times helping win College Ultimate titles for McMurtry (three years in a row, to be exact) in lieu of attending SA meetings on Monday evenings — for the record, I was still represented with a proxy as well,” Sanders said. “If I had to do it all over again, I would do the exact same thing.”

Sanders said he does not believe his removal will affect his year of leadership at McMurtry.

“I am still very proud of this past year, and I have heard overwhelming support from my fellow Murts,” Sanders said.

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