SGA closes semester in heated finale
The Student Government Association has had some heated debate over the past semester. Central to the controversy this semester was the second referendum question that appeared on the ballot in September concerning implementing online voting.
A November 17 Collegian article described in depth the handing over of the second referendum question regarding online voting to the Student Judiciary. An addendum accompanying the referendum has changed several things in the bylaws that some senators found questionable.
A concern of those opposed to the addendum is that it has changed how elections are funded.
“My concern is that private funding gives unequal advantage to students with higher incomes; they are able to outspend those who do not have those types of resources available to them,” said Sen. Patrick Kenney.
Sen. Derek Khanna, who introduced the referendum and subsequent addendum, has another interpretation of these changes to campaign finance. In his interpretation, the addendum allowed for small quantities of money to be used for candidates to create websites.
“The judiciary hearing is a joke,” said Khanna, “a bunch of individuals against the online voting system constructed it.”
Additionally the addendum reworked the definition of a senator and eliminates any ALANA seats on the senate.
“The ALANA group represents a portion of campus that needs to be represented and should be represented if not legally, morally,” said Sen. Andy Berg.
Supporters of the online voting initiative argue that conducting voting online will generate more participation.
“Currently only 12 percent of the student population votes in elections,” said Sen. Khana. “There is no downside to online voting,” he went on. “The petitioners are asking that the all-online voting system be invalidated and we will start all over again working for the online elections,” Khanna said.
A forthcoming decision by the SGA Judiciary will either establish online voting for the SGA on the University of Massachusetts campus or force those who support the referendum to start their work again.
According to Chief Justice Robert Weed, the Student Judiciary will come to a final decision on the referendum Friday, December 12.
Aside from the online voting controversy there have been other important motions discussed in the SGA senate this semester.
A motion to train new senators was discussed in the December 2 meeting of the SGA and at the December 9 meeting. The motion was at first passed December 2, and subsequently vetoed by President Ngozi Mbauwike. The motion to override the veto did not pass on December 9.
President Mbauwike also vetoed a motion to protect free speech on campus, on the grounds that the picketing laws already in place did just that.
“The picketing laws simply aren’t doing enough,” said Senator Khanna, “this new legislation would have gotten the student’s foot in the door and give students input on the student code of conduct.”
“We want to create a system that allows any campus group to bring anyone they want to speak,” continued Khanna on the free speech initiative.
There has been plenty of back and forth between members of the SGA, as was embodied by Senator Khanna’s self described “mini-state of the union address.”
“I have waited for a Legislative Agenda from the SGA President, she is required to give one upon taking office and one in the fall, but she has failed to do so,” said Khanna in his address.
Khanna continued to go on the offensive in his address stating that “I have never seen such an incompetent administration at UMass,” and that “I propose by next meeting any member of the cabinet who fails to provide a report shall have their pay frozen.”
Khanna then outlined the issues he feels are important to address by the senate next semester which included: regulating the UMPD, enhancing Student Legal Services, rewriting a Student Code of Conduct, and re-writing the SGA bylaws.
Senator Kenney remarked that Khanna used “disgusting” language in his address, and felt that it was an uncalled for personal attack.
An address by President Mbauwike on why she vetoed the bill to modify the way freedom of speech is protected on campus was followed by argument between those for and against the bill.
The back and forth between the two sides was stopped by Speaker Modesto Montero.
“I am not kidding around! This is getting ridiculous,” said Montero.
The meeting continued with civility and cooperation between senators.
“This semester of SGA has been marked by internal struggle,” said Kenney. “Personally I think that both sides of opinion should be represented and that hasn’t happened,” he said.
Kenney remarked on some of the collateral impact the SGA has had on the UMass campus.
“The SGA student and federal organizing committee have been very visible on campus,” said Kenney, “they helped to register students to vote in the federal senate special election.”
“Overall the SGA has been more active than in past years,” said Speaker Montero, “the amount of work done has doubled the amount of work we put in last year.”
According to Montero, the SGA is currently working on making records more available which could include the introduction of a new cabinet member in charge of maintaining an SGA website.
“The motion that was passed demands that these documents be made available on the website, but it has to be passed by the president,” said Montero.
“A motion was passed recently to open public records, for some reason people were waiting months to get requested records,” said Senator Andy Berg. “This motion provides stronger remedies against those who violate making records public knowledge,” Berg went on.
“This semester was full of adventure and it was entertaining,” said Montero.
President Mbawuike was not available for comment after Wednesday’s meeting and reportedly had taken ill.
Bobby Hitt firstname.lastname@example.org