For the second time in about as many months, an underclassman has filled the Students’ Association (SA) Senate seat of an upperclassman who resigned.
Junior Samantha Lienert resigned from her seat on Dec. 11, and Andria Rabenold, a sophomore, was appointed to fill the vacancy.
In her letter of resignation, Lienert cited a hostile atmosphere within Senate and SA Government, which she described as a “bullying organization,” as the primary motives for her departure.
“I have seen multiple people being personally attacked for views that are different from others, myself included,” Lienert wrote in the letter addressed to Speaker of the Senate Ethan Bidna and Deputy Speaker Joshua Hill. “As with all deliberative bodies, there will be disagreements; however, the handling of these disagreements was disappointing and disrespectful in many cases.”
Bidna acknowledged that there have been “some growing pains” in the Senate as the body has adopted new changes, but said he could not comment on Lienert’s specific experience. In separate statements, Senators Christian Keenan and Nicholas Pierce echoed Bidna’s theme of adjustment and transition, both pointing to the overwhelming number of new senators this year. “It seemed very disorganized early on,” Keenan, who praised Lienert as a senator, said.
Both, however, said there was some truth to Lienert’s claims. As did Senator Zoe James, who said she has thought about resigning herself.
“There were a lot of times when I felt like my voice didn’t matter,” James said. “Sitting in that room you can definitely feel the bias, you can tell that a handful of people want something and if they want it nothing you say or do will matter.”
Lienert explained on Jan. 14 that, along with scheduling conflicts, she resigned because she “wanted to devote [her] time to other things where [she felt her] input was better received and more necessary.” She added that, while the Senate “is capable of doing wonderful things for this university, [she] just felt as if the current senate, for multiple reasons, was just not an environment in which [her] feedback was welcomed and/or necessary on multiple occasions, due to either hostility or a multitude of other things.”
The former senator said her resignation also stemmed from a lack of productivity in both her role and in the Senate at-large. James spoke of a similar experience, saying, “I personally feel like we have not made an impact at all on campus [last] semester. I did join student government to make a change, and sometimes I just feel like I am sitting at that table as another voting hand.”
Bidna said on Jan. 14 that since no other juniors ran in last spring’s election, the Senate followed the precedent set by the All-Campus Judicial Council’s (ACJC) ruling in Almast v. Students’ Association Senate on Oct. 30, the result of an appeal contesting the Senate’s decision to fill a seat via a selection committee. ACJC decided in favor of sophomore Anmol Almast, who was offered and accepted a Senate seat after being the next-highest vote-getter in the Spring 2015 election.
Rabenold, who Bidna described as committed and enthusiastic, said she is “very excited to join the Senate table and work on new and continuing projects throughout the semester.”
“I am confident she will be a strong addition to the table and a powerful advocate for students,” Bidna said of the new senator.