Several students, including former Student Government President Nawara Alawa, were ushered out and denied the permission to speak in Senate Chambers Wednesday evening.
“It’s unfortunate that senators felt the need to restrict the voices of constituents who sat in a meeting for over two hours,” Alawa said.
They were asked to leave before the discussion of the bill that Arts and Sciences senator Austin Sedaghatpour and SpectrUM Senator Jared Payne co-authored. The bill proposed a streamlining of the Senate standing committees and described a legislative overhaul that would a create a more organized and accountable model of Senate, Sedaghatpour said.
“Right now the students don’t have a voice,” Sedaghatpour said. “There needs to be some kind of reform.”
The new Senate structure would be composed of three standing committees – University Affairs, Academic Affairs, and Policy and Finance. Each Senate seat will already hold a place on the committee that best suits their constituents, whereas the current system allowed senators to choose their committee.
“The student body votes senators to perform a certain role,” said Efrem Silverman, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences who was one of the students asked to leave the meeting. “Really they’re civil servants, and I feel like my voice should be heard there.”
Many who strive to listen to their constituents like Tyler Franz, the senior class senator, voted to deny the students’ speaking privileges because of time constraints.
“Of course I want to hear their opinions,” he said. “But we were limited to one minute of speaking time … it was strictly a time thing.”
Others like School of Communication Senator Alana Schmidt, however, were appalled by the decision of her colleagues and felt that senators should be more accountable to their constituents.
“I was shocked … that as Senate we couldn’t agree to make time for them,” she said. “I feel that we do need to be held accountable, and the way [Senate is] set up now, we are not.”
Prior to the students’ dismissal from Chambers, other legislation that the Executive and Judicial branches proposed were passed.
“One of the things we ran on was kind of revamping Student Government,” Vice-President Justin Borroto said.
He, along with President Bhumi Patel, Treasurer Robert Chiste and other members of the Executive Board, submitted legislation that addressed the specific duties of the vice-president, the creation of a Programming Committee and Campus Liaison Council in lieu of the advisory boards, and the development of the Freshmen Leadership Council.
“On one end it’s improving the efficiency on the internal side of things,” he said. “But really it’s setting up a way to make sure we’re giving back to students, and students have the most say in things.”
The Programming Committee and the Campus Liaison Council were two initiatives created to streamline communication within SG. The two entities serve as single channels by which all areas of SG will plan events and contact administrators.
The new Freshman Leadership Council will serve as a mentorship program for freshman looking to get involved with SG. These freshmen will be able to learn how to enhance their lives on campus with resources like the Toppel Career Center and the Butler Center for Service and Leadership, according to Borroto.
On the judicial front, Chief Justice Ricardo Fraga authored 11 amendments regarding the Organization Constituency seats of Senate.
Each year, the Court is charged with the responsibility of reviewing each of these seats’ efficiency. After their review and recommendations, Senate voted to retain all Organization Constituency seats.