Senate splits over quorum

Senate splits over quorum

by Christy Smith

Student Senate has again found itself under fire from various Senators and members of the community following an incident concerning quorum count that some have called unconstitutional and undemocratic.

Quorum is the required number of senators that must be present in order to conduct official business and voting procedures. According to senate advisor Jim Thorius, the senate lost quorum during the March 20 meeting when a member left.

“I was asked if the meeting could continue,” said Thorius. ” I said that I thought that we could if no one asked for a new quorum count.” Thorius said that he believed at the time that this was in keeping with Robert’s Rules of Order, the senate’s guideline for meeting. Thorius said that it was brought to his attention after the meeting that actually, according to the rules, no business can be conducted when quorum is lost.

“I made a mistake,” said Thorius.

Buxton Hall representative Brian Depew said he believes that by allowing last-minute replacements for senators, Student Senate is failing to operate under its constitution.

With the absence of a senator, a member of the visitors’ section volunteered to fill the senators empty position, according to Depew.

The absent senator’s position was not filled, according to Student Body President Jake Abel.

In an e-mail sent out to the campus, Pearl Podgorniak, student body vice-president and Senate President, said that what Depew’s statements are misinforming students.

“I do not ask that you disregard what Brian has presented to you, but to realize that there is in fact more (or less) to the story than what he would lead you to believe,” Podgorniak said. “Neither I nor Jake would ever intentionally continue to conduct a meeting that would be considered inappropriate or unbeneficial to the student body.”

This semester, according to Abel, Student Senate has suffered from unusually low attendance.

“Senate attendance has been so low that we have not met the required 50 percent attendance needed to conduct an official meeting,” Abel said. “What troubles me is the accusations by some that the Student Senate is randomly going out and getting people to vote. This is simply not true.”

According to Abel, only18 seats have been occupied out of the 20 certified Senate seats needed for meetings.

Section B, Paragraph 2, Part b of the Student Senate Constitution says, “A Senator will not be considered absent if the Student Government Manager or the Presiding Officer of the Student Senate is informed of who is the substitute for that Senator.”

According To Abel, this reads that a substitute can sit in on the missing senator’s seat and vote in his or her place.

Thorius said that the student senate bylaws are unclear on the subject. “[The bylaws say] that there can be substitute representatives, but it’s not clear about the substituting process.”

Former Student Government Parliamentarian freshman Ben Osborn said he feels that Senate does not want to follow the rules of parliamentary law.

“Senate, as a whole, simply does not want to, or know how to, follow the rules and procedures that are laid forth for them to follow,” Osborn said.

According to Thorius, a serious problem for the senate has been interpretation of its constitution. “The student government constitution was written a number of years ago, by people who were not constitutional scholars. Organizations need to have rules and need to follow those rules.”

Thorius said that a committee has been set out to review the current constitution, and to make reccomendations. Some results are expected yet this spring, said Thorius.

Abel said, “it is time for you as members of the Simpson community to hold your senators accountable. Make sure that they are attending Student Senate, and more importantly that they are working for the good of the student body.”

According To Abel, there are five empty Senate seats: Kresge, Pi Beta Phi, Sequel, full-time commuter and part-time commuter. The Simpsonian has turned down its seat for this semester.