Following several weeks of frustration due to poor attendance and a lack of ability to get things done, the Students’ Association government is trying some negative reinforcement and reward techniques to encourage senators to increase their level of activity.
“People always says that Senate does nothing,” senior and Communications Committee Chairperson Alex Brody said. “This general Senate meeting is supposed to be used to discuss what happens in committees. If people aren’t going to their committee meetings, we don’t have anything to discuss.”
The first strategy is to post an attendance sheet that will show senators’ attendance at both general senate meetings and their committee meetings in the display case in the tunnel under Rush Rhees Library.
Brody hopes that the fear of appearing inactive to their constituents will motivate senators to improve their attendance records.
“Allowing people to see our attendance records will provide accountability, and get people talking about senate,” Brody said. “Unfortunately we need to be policing ourselves. I don’t want to be part of something that is viewed as a joke organization.”
While there was no vote on this initiative at Monday’s meeting, no senators voiced major dissent. “When you’re elected you should work in good faith for your constituents,” SA President and senior Pete Nabozny said.
Under the current SA Constitution, senators are automatically brought up for impeachment if they accrue more than three unexcused absences from the general senate meetings over the course of an academic year.
This year two senators, senior Steve D’Amico and sophomore Robert Cavanaugh were brought up for impeachment. After extensive debate, both senators were able to keep their positions.
While many committees are still able to complete their work, the recently created Political Finance Distinction Committee led by D’Amico and Group Consolidation Committee led by senior Pat Brennan have yet to produce any recommendations or information for the full senate.
The Group Consolidation Committee still anticipates delivering its report by the end of February, only one week later than originally expected.
Another suffering aspect of the SA government is the slow process of ratifying the proposed constitution. To date, approximately 600 of the 1,200 signatures necessary have been collected.
In order to make the transition as smooth as possible, it must be ratified by Feb. 7. As an incentive, Nabozny is encouraging SA government members to collect signatures by raffling off new iPod Shuffles. For every 10 signatures a senator turns in, they will receive a ticket.
Two iPod Shuffles will be given out in the raffle and a third model will be awarded to the person who collects the most signatures.
Initially some senators expressed that they did not feel this was an appropriate use of SA funds while others suggested the prize be upgraded to full 20 gigabyte models. “I’m worried that there will be a backlash if we use the budget to reward ourselves,” junior Senator Matt Goldblatt said. “Do we really need these prizes in order to collect the signatures?”
“If you don’t need the extra incentive, why haven’t the signatures already been collected over the past months?” Nabozny said to the senators.
“When I was elected president I was given a budget. It is my own prerogative to determine how best to spend the money. I’m willing to spend $300 on this.”
“While some may believe I am a self-aggrandizing leader looking to cement my legacy with the ratification of the constitution – there are important changes in the new constitution that will fundamentally alter the government and make it more effective,” Nabozny said. He encourages all students to sign petitions supporting ratification.
“People who win the iPods will have the opportunity to donate the money to the tsunami relief effort instead,” Nabozny said. “The attendance sheet is a good way to help constituents keep track of what their elected representative are doing and determine if he or she is worthy of re-election.”
Keesing can be reached at email@example.com.