SGA opinions divided over President Barrett’s veto of Senate motions last week

By Stuart Foster

(Collegian File Photo)
(Collegian File Photo)

After Student Government Association President Sïonan Barrett vetoed a Senate motion to approve two prospective groups as registered student organizations during a Senate meeting last week, SGA members disagreed over whether they thought the veto was necessary.

Nick Andrade, the secretary of the registry for the SGA, denied 10 groups the title of an RSO on the grounds that the applications did not list 10 undergraduates involved with the organization. Seven of the 10 groups who were denied RSO status appealed Andrade’s decision to the Senate, who then granted two groups their appeals.

Barrett recently vetoed the Senate’s decision to retroactively grant the UMass Obstacle Course Racing Club and the Society of Asian Students and Engineers an RSO status because the prospective organizations did not satisfy the member requirements, which necessitated them to list 10 undergraduates involved with the group on the application. Following her veto, SGA Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Jeremy Tibbetts questioned the decision.

“I think the last thing student groups need is student government serving as an obstacle to how they’re supposed to function on campus,” said Tibbetts, a junior studying public health.

Tibbetts said that there were questions of how clear the application was for prospective groups, saying that the required amount of names was not specifically mentioned in the application itself but was attached to the application as a link.

Those two groups, Tibbetts said, were voted on at a Feb. 16 meeting of the SGA, which occurred one week after the other groups were denied. Thirty-nine senators voted at the later meeting, as opposed to 30 who had voted at the meeting the week before when the other groups were denied RSO status.

Barrett, a senior studying journalism, said that it was important for the SGA to treat organizations fairly by not arbitrarily rejecting different appeals for the same reason and to follow the SGA’s bylaws precisely.

“The reason I vetoed the last two was because I really just wanted it to be consistent and fair across the board,” Barrett said.

While Tibbetts said that Barrett could also have vetoed the Senate’s motions to not approve the other prospective RSOs, Barrett said that it was important for her to not violate the SGA’s bylaws.

“I think that everything was very spelled out in the documents Nick sent to the groups,” she said, adding that a large majority of the RSOs applying, 40 out of 50, had been able to fill out the forms correctly.”

“If they didn’t submit a complete application it’s not something we can consider,” she said. “It’s not that we don’t support RSOs, we just need a complete application to consider them.”

At the Feb. 22 meeting where Barrett vetoed the previous Senate motions, she told members of the legislative body that they could hypothetically be taken to the SGA Judiciary over whether they had violated the bylaws by the prospective RSO groups.

Tibbets said that he was uncomfortable with this idea, saying that it could restrict the ways in which senators vote to represent students.

“I leave these meetings and I have a feeling that there’s something happening kind of subliminally about control,” Tibbetts said.

Barrett said that she had never considered opening a judicial case against SGA members, and that she was just informing them it was a possible option for groups that were denied approval.

At the meeting last week, a majority of voting senators attempted to block the veto, with 22 senators voting against the veto, seven for it and seven in abstention. However, the number of senators who voted against the veto did not reach the two-thirds majority necessary for an override.

Tibbetts said that there was a gap between how members of the Senate and members of Barrett’s cabinet, many of whom spoke in support of the veto during the debate before voting, viewed these issues.

“Who should have the final say in what should happen in the Senate?” Tibbetts asked.

Barrett, however, said that a division had emerged on this issue because cabinet members have a better understanding of Andrade’s responsibilities as secretary of the registry and more experience.

“I would more separate it as people who have multiple years of experience in the SGA and everyone else on the other side who has been in the SGA for a year and a half or less,” she said.

The veto was the first presidential veto of a Senate motion this year.

Stuart Foster can be reached at [email protected], and followed on Twitter @Stuart_C_Foster.