The ASSU Undergraduate Senate addressed Tuesday a pressing need to form an interim commission to solicit applications, interview and nominate student representatives for more than 40 University committees before a June 1 deadline.
Senators described the process as “not ideal,” “tough” and even “shitty” during their second full-length meeting in office.
Nanci Howe, director of Student Activities and Leadership (SAL), expressed concern about the administration’s frustration with the ASSU’s perceived incompetency if it cannot meet the deadline for nominations.
“The last three to five years, the ASSU has been late every year,” Howe said. “Particularly the Board of Trustees and the Faculty Senate [are] quite unhappy with the performance of the ASSU…I worry about the credibility of the ASSU as an organization.”
Senate Chair Branden Crouch ’14 said that the 13th Senate told this year’s Nominations Commission (NomCom) that the commission’s responsibilities were going to be dissolved at the end of this academic year. As a result, the Senate did not recruit new NomCom members after the commission’s term ended.
The premature anticipation of the previous ASSU Senate may have been due to an expectation that an updated ASSU Constitution, developed by the Governing Documents Commission, would pass. The proposed new Constitution revised the process for committee nominations, establishing a Joint Nominations Committee made up of ASSU elected representatives instead of delegating the responsibility to the external body, NomCom.
This new document, however, unexpectedly failed to pass in the last few weeks of the 13th Senate’s term, leaving the ASSU with an outdated Constitution and no new NomCom.
ASSU President Robbie Zimbroff ’12 initially proposed Tuesday to nominate himself as the unilateral chair of an interim nominations committee. Senator Garima Sharma ’15 noted, however, that this suggestion violated the bylaws of the Association, which say that “no member of the [Nominations] Commission shall, during her/his term, hold an elected office of the Association,” disqualifying Zimbroff from such a position.
For the Senate to approve Zimbroff’s self-nomination, representatives would have been required to suspend the Senate bylaws and rules of order, an action opposed by several senators.
Most senators said that while they viewed the idea of suspending the bylaws and giving the power of nomination to Zimbroff as flawed, the alternative — of losing student influence in committees across campus — would be far worse.
“If this isn’t done, there will be very drastic consequences,” Parliamentarian Kimberly Bacon ’15 said in response to a suggestion that the Senate have an open application process for a NomCom chair. “I don’t really see a feasible alternative in the time crunch we’re in.”
The senators also discussed how their decision would affect the image of the ASSU. Sharma said that she believed nominating the ASSU president as the chair of NomCom, against the bylaws of the ASSU, would reflect badly on the Senate in terms of checking bias.
Howe encouraged the senators to worry less about the details of their decision and focus more on producing nominations efficiently.
“We have more than just the image at stake,” Jack Weller ’15 said, supporting action rather than meticulous attention to procedure. “This is our duty; this is our responsibility. So we have to get it done.”
The senators compromised by agreeing to reinstate those members of last year’s NomCom, who accepted a re-invitation. Although Crouch, who served on the 2011-2012 NomCom, could only confirm that one of the previous members would return, the senators voted unanimously in favor of the revised bill, with both Zimbroff and the co-chairs of the Graduate Student Council (GSC) serving as ex officio members. The Senate did not have to suspend the rules of order to approve the bill.
Former GSC Chair Addy Satija urged the Senate to ensure the ex officio status of the GSC chairs, without which the NomCom would not have a graduate representative. He said that the only graduate member on last year’s NomCom has already refused to serve again.
“If there is a proposal for Nominations Commission with no graduate students on it, I know that people would rather defer it and have completely no appointments rather than go ahead with a commission that is entirely undergraduate,” Satija said.
Satija also reported that the Senate budget, which the 13th Undergraduate Senate passed in its last meeting, was rejected by the Graduate Student Council (GSC) the following day, leaving the Senate without an operating budget. Funds for a retreat including Zimbroff, Vice President William Wagstaff ’12 and the senators — which Zimbroff estimated was around $700 for hotel rooms, food and gas — came from the former Senate’s budget. The current Senate will discuss the approval of a revised version of the budget in future meetings.
The senators also nominated and confirmed Senator Christos Haveles ’15 as treasurer.