After repeatedly overruling the bylaws this past year in their effort to fill five vacant Senate seats, the Students’ Association Senate voted to approve a bylaw revision to clarify the process. The motion passed with exactly the required two-thirds majority at the Feb. 25 Senate meeting.
The revised bylaws contain a section that calls for vacancies to be “automatically filled by the eligible candidate who received the next highest number of votes for the vacant seat if more than 10 academic weeks remain before the end of spring elections.”
The bylaws also include a more specific protocol for filling vacant seats, resolving many of the concerns raised this past year.
If the list of eligible candidaes for the spot is exhausted, the Steering Committee’s options are clearly delineated.
When no eligible candidates are available, the Steering Committee, a group of mostly unelected SA members, can choose to review applications and nominate candidates for the Senate’s review. As under the previous bylaw, the Senate will have the ultimate authority to approve the final selection.
The revision aligns the bylaws with the practice that has been used to fill the vacancies over the past semester, giving preference to candidates who originally ran in the election process.
During the discussion, the Senate focused on the definition of an eligible candidate. Class of 2016 Senator David Stark suggested increasing the 50 vote threshold for at-large candidates to 100 votes to account for the fact that they are elected by the entire student body and not just members of their own class. These thresholds serve to prevent candidates who were not preferred in the voting process to remain unselected.
While Senators were in favor of clarifying the bylaws, this adendum to the proposal led to a split in senators’ opinons.
Senator-at-large and KEY Scholar Bradley Halpern was one of the most vocal critics. He believes that choosing the voting threshold for eligible candidates needed more research.
“I feel quite strongly about voting on things only when I feel informed,” Halpern said. “I didn’t feel comfortable. This [voting threshold] would have not allowed someone who was serving the last few years to serve because they received less than 100 votes. Maybe it wasn’t in our best interest that they serve, but I didn’t have enough information.”
Like Halpern, those opposed wanted the definition of an eligible candidate directly clarified.
“I vetoed the motion because I believe the bylaw branched over into another one that I thought we should address first on senator eligibility,” Senator-at-Large and senior Shiv Rambarran said.
The affirmative votes, however, were dominant, and the motion passed.
“My affirmative vote came because I believe the number restrictions were very reasonable, considering the [vote] numbers from this year,” Class of 2016 Senator Luke Metzler said. “I think that some of the concern was that the wording was not very specific.”
SA Speaker of the Senate and junior Shilpa Topudurti, who spearheaded the revision, assured Senate that she would present an amended definition of an “eligible candidate” to the next meeting.
“I think that what happened tonight was a great example of why we have the Senate body,” Metzler said. “It was a two-thirds vote, but there was discussion [and] there was caucusing.”
Remus is a member of the class of 2016.