SGA debates Senate committee change

By Sam Hayes

With contentious debates and firm disagreements, members of the University of Massachusetts Student Government Association Senate voted on a variety of bylaw-changing legislations last Wednesday in their second-to-last meeting of the semester.

The contested issue of the night dealt with a motion set forth by Chairmen Nick Barton and Dan Stratford of the Student and Academic Affairs Organizing Committee, as well as Senator Jarred Rose. The issue called for dividing the current Student and Academic Affairs Organizing Committee into two separate committees – one dealing with academics and one with student affairs.

The senate discussed the motion’s benefits and concerns. Sen. Zach Broughton spoke in defense of the bill, after which he quickly called the motion. The motion was then seconded, immediately causing Sen. Jason Thompson to burst out.

He called Broughton’s mid-sentence calling of the bill, “absolutely ludicrous,” “absurd,” “ridiculous” and a “sly tactic” that was “insulting to the intelligence of [the SGA senate].” Because the motion was already called to the floor, in order to discuss it further before voting, Thompson called for an official debate.

Each side was given eight minutes to debate the issue, with Broughton and Sen. Matt Reilly speaking in defense of the motion, and Sens. Justin Thompson, Ellen Moorhouse and Ben Johnson opposing it.

Those who opposed the measure argued that most committees don’t have enough members as it is, and that adding another would not make sense.

“We have trouble getting quorum for [the Administrative Affairs committee] and Finance [committee] and other committees as it is,” said Thompson. He then asked the motion’s sponsors, “So you really suggest that we increase the UMass SGA bureaucracy?”

The side in favor of the measure pointed to a projected increase from 40 to 50 senators in the organization next year and the need for students to have a specific body to deal with academic affairs.

“The idea is to split the student and academic affairs committee into two committees that are more focused,” Barton said.

Rose added that “the way SAA is structured… is really ambiguous… what this essentially will do is allow for more senators to work on committee.”

Speaker of the Senate Modesto Montero, who organizes the committee appointments, gave advice to those concerned with the motion.

“From a speaker stand point I think the concern I have is that even this year getting five people [the minimum needed on a committee].” Montero also remarked that the SGA “rarely talks about academics as an issue.”

The motion ultimately did not pass.

In other business, members voted to pass an amended version of a motion pertaining to a recent Faculty Senate ruling calling for the campus to go tobacco-free by July 1, 2013. The motion, which had its original version vetoed by SGA President Yevin Roh at a prior meeting, calls on Chancellor Robert Holub to delay approval and implementation of the measure.

“It is relatively the same thing we had last time with two main changes,” Rose, the motion’s sponsor, said of the measure. “[Now we are] clearly stating that there was student input [in the tobacco-free rule], but for a policy of this level, there should be more.”

Elsewhere last week, members passed a motion that aims to clarify judicial rules.

“If you’ve ever been to a judicial meeting there are many objections raised,” said Rose, “and right now there is absolutely nothing in the bylaws on how to deal with an objection.”

The new regulations were created with the input of Chief Justice of the Judiciary Chris Marquis.

Another adjustment to the rules is that the chief justice no longer has to write the majority opinion; now only he or she will write it only if in the majority.

“If [the chief justice] is in the minority it just doesn’t make sense for them to write the majority opinion, they could just write whatever they want,” explained Rose.

Motions to change the “vague” title and responsibilities of the Secretary of Outreach to Secretary of Public Relations and Recruitment and to allocate $2,000 to the Taiwanese and Chinese Student Association were also passed at last week’s meeting.

Sam Hayes can be reached at [email protected]