The Students’ Association Senate began preparations for next year’s new government by changing the composition of senate while maintaining the fall and spring election schedule. Additionally, senators approved a proposal to ease annual financial burdens, during Monday night’s meeting.
“I think that transition is going to work out pretty well,” SA Senator and sophomore Brian Clancy said. “I believe that having all of the elections in the spring would have ameliorated some of the legitimacy issues senate faces, though.”
In accordance with the suggestions of the Government Restructuring Committee, senators voted to change the composition of senate. Under the new plan, there will be three representatives from each class and six at-large senators. Currently, as many as 21 senators can serve, representing constituents by class year, by living area or as at-large senators.
Much of the debate centered on how many at-large seats should be available and whether or not those elections should be conducted in the spring with all other races or in the fall.
Some of the arguments in favor of maintaining fall elections included allowing new freshmen to vote for at-large senators, in addition to class representatives, bringing new faces to the senate more than once a year and giving people a second opportunity to run for office if they were too busy during the previous semester.
“I agree with the Executive branch and the Student Activities Office – I encourage you to support all spring elections,” Speaker of the Senate and senior Tom Hayes said, hoping to add insight as the meeting approached the three hour point.
“Turnout is much higher, and we are able to prepare for the upcoming year more effectively with spring race,” Hayes said. “This is a straightforward debate – while it is important to allow involvement, it is more important to have a strong student government that is able to get things done rather than having to devote resources to small fall election.”
Hayes and others also reminded senators that those who are not elected to senate have ample opportunities for other involvement in the president’s cabinet and other areas.
Ultimately, the change in composition required the support of a two-thirds majority to carry. The plan needed to be finalized at Monday’s meeting in order to prepare for the upcoming spring elections. After several stalemated attempts and two quorum periods for open discussion, a plan finally passed. There will be six at-large senate seats, with three being elected in the spring and the other three in the fall.
All other positions will be filled during spring elections.
“Splitting these elections is a terrible idea,” SA President and senior Pete Nabozny said. “You’ll find out that no one will run for all of these seats in the fall and voter turnout will be low, reducing the legitimacy of the senate – and you’ll change it once you see what happens. I disagree strongly, but we need a decision tonight in order to have a senate.”
Students cast 1,282 votes in the spring 2004 election, compared to 585 in this fall’s election.
Separately, the senate also easily adopted a financial measure proposed by SA Senator and junior Tyson Ford and expanded on by SA Senator and sophomore Robert Cavanaugh.
The new fee benchmark states that the student activity fee will be increased annually by 3.5 percent or by the Consumer Price Index, whichever is higher.
The increase is not to exceed 5 percent of the total fee.
The CPI is currently steady at 2.7 percent.
“CPI is the most reliable index for what we and our groups spend money on,” Ford said. “This is based on inflation – changes in prices for consumer goods.”
“Among other things, the cost of copies has increased from two cents to eight cents, which makes a big impact,” Nabozny said. “With more groups and the student body wanting bigger speakers, we need more money. This measure will give us a better idea for future resources.”
Next, the proposal will go to Dean of the College William Green for approval before being submitted to the Board of Trustees.
This increase will not be automatic, but will be reviewed annually by senate and is hoped to provide more stability than the current trend of periodic large increases.
Last year’s $25 increase was the first successful increase since 1999. The current SA fee is $210, annually.
Additionally, junior Brian Metro was confirmed by the senate as the new Students’ Association Appropriations Committee Treasurer.
His goals for the term include increasing communication between SAAC, the Policy Committee and student groups and creating some guidelines for decision making.
Keesing can be reached at email@example.com.