SA Senate’s casual neglect in allowing someone to serve illegally for about five weeks this semester — rendering unconstitutional every vote taken during that time — was stupefying enough.

But now SA leaders have decided to sweep it all aside, opting “not to retroactively reaffirm” the votes, according to an internal memo. This, despite acknowledging the votes were unconstitutional and admitting that vote tallies were tainted — because the number of votes needed for something to pass was one too many. Their reason: There is no precedent for making Senate re-open closed business that was conducted unconstitutionally.

The underlying logic here is, effectively, “We were never punished for screwing this stuff up before, or maybe we never screwed up this badly, so therefore we don’t have to do anything.”

That is astonishing — partly because in citing a lack of precedent, SA leaders have created a precedent, a dangerous one at that, which can allow future leaders to disregard rules and principles whenever they want.

Maybe SA thinks it can escape this flub unscathed because only a clutch of students care about their campus government. Maybe its leaders have deluded themselves into thinking this glaring ineptitude is actually a solid line of reasoning. Maybe, like leaving the Senate seat vacant, this was just a mistake.

We shouldn’t need to wonder about this stuff. SA leaders should do more than talk a big game during election time and then disappear into a vat of insular hand-shaking. But that is the exact opposite message conveyed by the internal memo, which was forwarded to the Campus Times.

SA does not need to be whacked without end. You might not notice — since the Senate so rarely and so retroactively posts meeting minutes — but this semester and the last, SA has done some good work.

Senator Beatriz Gil has made much-needed efforts to make campus life easier for alienated international students. The Campus Services Committee, with specific effort from former Deputy Chair Alexandria Brown, has recognized the hard but often-unappreciated labor of staff workers. Senate has started live-streaming its meetings on Facebook so people can easily tune in. And though dealt a tough hand at the start of their administration, SA President Jordan Smith and Vice President Becca Mooney handled the controversy over Professor T. Florian Jaeger with a measured response and the plan with, probably, the most chance for change.

Problem is, it’s hard to have confidence SA can continue that kind of work when it not only botches something as simple as properly filling a Senate seat, but then chooses to ignore its mistake with paper-thin reasoning.

In the future, SA should regulate elections more clearly and specify that students who plan to study abroad in the second-half of their term should not run. To best represent students, a senator should not be thousands of miles away, disconnected from campus concerns. Perhaps that could be a question when the Senate Elections and Rules Committee vets potential candidates.

But after seeing SA’s response to its oversight, who knows if its leaders will step up.

Tagged: SA

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