Senate Beat: Breaking Dawn
The majority of Tuesday’s lightly-attended Senate Town Hall meeting was spent discussing the Quest Board selection process. However, President Brian Moore ’13 reviewed a bylaw change requested by faculty. Moore later said in an email, “In effect Community Rights Subcommittee will publish summaries of all mediation attempts, not just successful mediations. This has the advantage of informing the community about how issues are handled in a more timely manner and assures that all CRS actions are made public since it would always be possible for CRS to decide against pursuing the case further or the JBoard could decline to hear the case.” Discussion of the change was tabled until Senate’s executive meeting on Sunday.
After Senate voted to allow The Quest to retain its online presence for the spring, a procedure that is apparently required every semester, ex-Queditor Katelyn Best ’13 cited lack of institutional memory and structure as reasons for pursuing Quest reform. Ex-Senator Meg Millhouse ’12 noted that Senate passed legislation requiring Quest Boards to serve in an advisory role for the succeeding boards, but that Senate never moved to enact it. Senator John Iselin ’14 and Assistant Treasurer Paul Messick ’15 asked if new Quest Boards could be chosen internally by outgoing boards, but Senator Sarah Carlisle ’13 claimed that such a decision would make it difficult for The Quest to get priority funding and space from Senate.
Carlisle did say, however, that she would like to see The Quest receive a share of its ad revenue to use for equipment bettering its print edition. Currently, all Quest ad revenue is paid back to the student body to recoup printing costs. Senator Torra Spillane ’12 was concerned that appointed or internally-selected Quest Boards would not be accountable. Best claimed elected Quest Boards aren’t held accountable by the student body. Elections would ideally be competitive and meritocratic, said Senator Shabab Mirza ’13, but often become “popularity contests.”
After Moore tabled further discussion of Quest reform, Mirza suggested that Senate reexamine bylaws that have been suspended in the past. Vice President Aidan Sigman ’13, who was, to the dismay of all in attendance, clothed, said that Senate usually suspends bylaws on a situational basis. Vice Treasurer Johannes Harkins ’14 agreed with Mirza that bylaws should be reviewed, but wanted to avoid getting caught up in semantics. Spillane added that she wanted Senate to use more precise language when drafting legislation to avoid granting Senate too much power.
The discussion shifted as Millhouse expressed concern about the code for single transferable voting used in student body elections. SIN webmasters have complete control over the code, claimed Millhouse. Carlisle noted that Election Czars are supposed to observe SIN webmasters during elections.
Senator Dana Loutey ’12 suggested that Senate handle more legislative matters during Senate meetings to improve transparency and increase attendance. On that note Senator JR Rodriguez ’12 interjected that the meeting’s turnout of five people was sad. Student involvement in Senate should be a goal for the semester, said Senator Ari Galper ’14, but Sigman noted that some students are simply uninterested in Senate activity. Rodriguez asserted that Senate Beat should be written by unbiased individuals, and offered Meg Millhouse as an example. Carlisle seconded his sentiment.
Moore suggested that Senate use other forums for communicating their message rather than to directly interfere in Quest affairs. Galper agreed that The Quest should retain autonomy. Iselin wisely reminded the audience that it is The Quest writers’ responsibility to remain unbiased.
Iselin then suggested that Senate focus on improving elections turnout. Senator Marie Perez suggested that candidates have bios posted on the elections website. Iselin recommended a set of questions for each candidate to discuss, and Perez was concerned that this move would limit the scope of debate. Sigman added that election winners are those who put up the most posters, and thus it might be beneficial to limit candidates to a set number of posters. Iselin disagreed with regulating campaign advertising. Perez suggested Senate-funded campaigns. Senate adjourned before it could solve the issue of campaign finance reform.
In other news, the Senate page on SIN still lists last semester’s senators. So much for an increased online presence.