Wednesday, December 06, 2006

So now they want to play by the rules -- sort of

The Student Association Senate has scheduled another meeting to replace the one they couldn't hold due to lack of quorum. Here is the relevant text of the notice:

The Student Association of the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee
DATE: Sunday, December 10th, 2006
TIME: 6:00pm
UWM Union Ballroom
2200 E. Kenwood Blvd.
Milwaukee, WI 53211

Agenda First Available on Friday, December 8th, 2006
By emailing:
All meetings are open to the general public.
The senate may go into closed session pursuant to Wisconsin State Statute 19.85(1-6)
According to SA Senate Bylaws Article II Section VI, an
Emergency meeting must be held when requested by 5 senators.
"Emergency meetings shall be for the sole purpose of approving SFC or SAC actions..."

In another world, we could just accept this as is and move on. But in the world we have seen so far, it makes sense to post the section of the Senate Bylaws relevant to this situation, namely Article II, Section VI:
Article II -- Meetings
Section 6 -- Emergency Senate Meetings (for those of you following with your own copy of the Senate Bylaws, it's the second Section 6 -- i.e. the one after the Section 6 dealing with the State of the Students Address)
a. Emergency Senate meetings shall be called by the Speaker of the Senate or by the request of 5 senators, in writing, to the Speaker.

b. The agenda shall be written by the Executive Committee.

c. No senator shall be penalized for absences during emergency meetings.

d. There must be at least 48 hours between the time the meeting is called and the meeting itself.

e. Quorum shall consist of 40% of Senate Seats filled.

f. Emergency Senate meetings shall be for the sole purpose of approving SFC or SAC actions or taking up items requiring Senate action due to timelines outside the control of the Student Association.

So, when the meeting in the garage was to be held, it was for "items requiring Senate action due to timelines outside the control of the Student Association" clause that doesn't appear on the notice. Yet, here, the implication of the notice as written is that this clause doesn't exist.

If you want to be around when the Executive Committee creates this agenda, that will be on December 7 (i.e. tomorrow as I write this) at 3:30 p.m. in EG79I, 16 minutes after the Shared Governance meeting. Either there are so few items being covered by Shared Governance that their meeting will be extremely short, or the Executive Committee will have to set the agenda without the input of the Shared Governance Director.

But the big question is this: Why should all the other items wait until the next regular meeting? The only reason they weren't discussed was there was a lack of quorum, and the number who did show up (12) isn't enough for quorum even for an Emergency meeting (16).

As for timeline issues, the Election Commission Formation Act becomes nearly meaningless if not passed now. The Concurrent Service Act can possibly wait, but why should it? The Student Association Senator Award Act could run into problems if its failure to be addressed removes a senator who would have been eligible to remain had it passed. There are constituencies who would argue that these and other measures need to be addressed sooner if not later. Why create a notice that precludes them?

Monday, December 04, 2006

No Quorum, what now?

In the fine tradition of the Student Association Senate, the meeting scheduled for December 3 could not be held due to lack of quorum. Normally, this doesn't happen until near the end of the school year, when one controversy or another keeps a large block of senators away, but this time it's happening in December.

Here is the agenda listed for that meeting; what could have kept them away this time? Could it have been the proposal that would finally resolve the separation of powers? The Concurrent Service Act would amend the Senate Bylaws, Article VII, Section 1(f) to read: "Senators may not concurrently serve as a member of the Presidential Cabinet or as a Student Court Justice. The Presidential Cabinet shall be defined to include the following positions: President, Vice President, Chief of Staff, Treasurer, Academic Affairs Director, Shared Governance Director, and Legislative Affairs Director. The Vice President will retain his right to cast the tie-breaking vote in the senate as defined in Article V Section 6(a) of the SA Constitution." This would keep some people out of concurrent service, but there are some notable exceptions, such as the Secretary and the other Directors not specifically named above. But there is another problem that the legislation as written does not address. What happens if a shady SA President decides to have the same types of offices but call them different names?

Maybe the item that kept senators away was the Nursing Mothers Protection Act. This would guarantee the rights of women who choose to breastfeed their children to do so anywhere where the woman and her child are otherwise allowed to be. This came about as a result of the previous senate meeting, where a provision to ask the Union Policy Board to change one of their policies was justified by "inappropriate breastfeeding" in a Union office, among other things.

Could it have been the Students Vote Act of 2006? That would have directed the Vice President or designee to work with the City of Milwaukee Election Commission to adopting a campus polling place in the next election cycle to be staffed primarily by student volunteers and to investigate the lack of ballots during the last election. That doesn't seem too controversial, so I wouldn't expect that to be the problem.

Also on the agenda, we had the Election Commission Formation Act of 2006. This would require the formation of an Independent Election Commission by the start of spring 2006, "appointed by a special election committee, consisting of two persons from each party or independent candidate in the last election and/or representing student organizations on campus", not to include current or former members of SA government or any former IEC member. It would also change the name to Independent Student Association Process Committee and require that the Dean of Students or another administrative representative be present for all vote counting. Given the general reluctance to appoint an Independent Elections Commissioner, that may be what kept people away, but we'll see.

Then there is the last issue on the listed agenda (i.e. the one sent out by e-mail), the Student Association Senator Award Act. This would change one rule in the Senate Bylaws [Article IV, Section 1(d)] and remove 4 demerit points for being "present and not late or leaving early at a Senate meeting" instead of the -1 listed. Note that this rule is in the Senate Bylaws, so it would need to be passed as a Bylaws change and thus take a 2/3 vote.

Even so, this would cheapen the system as it stands. First, you need 12 demerit points (or miss three consecutive Senate meetings) to be removed from office. Second, if you inform people ahead of time of your absence, you only accumulate two per meeting, not four. Third, you only get to remove demerits if you have accumulated them in the first place. So this measure, if passed, would allow a person to miss two meetings with notification, then attend one all the way through and have the exact same demerit record as someone with perfect attendance. This is ludicrous.

Apparently the meeting will be rescheduled for December 10, same Bat-Time, same Bat-Channel. Let's just hope it isn't the same Bat-Result.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Wondering about Senate Agenda

At the last Constituent Services Forum, it was indicated that there would be a streamlined process for getting the agenda for upcoming Senate meetings. As of now, this has yet to be implemented.