Abel answers criticism over closed cabinet

by John Jacobsen

Without any direction provided by the Student Senate constitution, the use and validity of closed cabinet meetings recently came into question from many students.

“The point I want everybody to realize is that there is nothing special or secret going on,” said Student Body President Jake Abel.

With mass e-mails at every turn, many students still do not understand what happened in student government last week or how it could affect them.

“Basically the rules of the constitution state that the cabinet’s responsibility is to make recommendations during the full senate meetings on how money should be spent,” Abel said. All student body officers and class presidents are present at cabinet meetings.

The problem occurs in the reading of the constitution.

“The constitution has a provision that states that we could still hold closed cabinet meetings,” said Abel.

The idea of closing the cabinet meetings is not the hot button issue with students; it is the manner in which Abel and other student senate officials chose to close these meetings.

“From what I have heard it is the feeling that Jake went through inappropriate channels in deciding to close cabinet meetings,” said student body parliamentarian Ben Osborn. Osborn’s position is not that of a senator, but is to ensure that cabinet and senate meetings are run according to the constitution.

Though the meetings are closed there is still a way that students can access the minutes for the meeting.

“The student body manager keeps notes on all proceedings, including closed sessions,” said Abel, adding that those notes have not previously been published, but as of now will be available for others to view.

“Cabinet members need to have a chance to speak without being singled out by people,” said Abel. He added that the cabinet always reports to the senate about the findings of their meetings.

“My job is to handle potential conflicts and the only way to prepare for that is to attend these meetings. If I am not allowed to attend these meetings I can’t do my job as parliamentarian,” said Osborn.

According to Osborn, Abel presented the idea of closed cabinet meetings to the members and then closed the meetings once he received their approval.

“The problem is that the right channels of parliamentary procedures should have been agreed upon by the entire senate beforehand,” Osborn said.

At the following meeting it was suggested that the idea of closed cabinet meetings be brought up as a proposal.

“I don’t think anyone was specifically against this change. It was the way in which it came about,” said Osborn, adding that his statements and e-mails were not a personal attack on Abel.

With no specific instructions within the constitution, this issue has been left up to opinions.

“It is general procedure to keep all meetings open, even though there is no specific rule governing this sort of problem, said Osborn. “People felt like Jake was trying to change the purpose of cabinet meetings without consulting the right people.”