Low ASUC Senate Meeting Turnout Delays Debate, Passage of Bills

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As the attendance of ASUC senators at their meetings has continued to dwindle in the past month, many members expressed frustration with the resulting bureaucratic delays.

Senators are required to attend at least 70 percent of senate meetings, but in the past month, attendance has averaged 14 out of the total 20 members.

As a two-thirds majority vote is required to pass bills that allocate money and amend the bylaws, this low attendance rate may delay or even prevent the passage of important bills.

Student Action Senator Brooke Rowland's bill to regulate ASUC stipends has been delayed for two weeks now.

"It's work stoppage," Rowland said. "You can't even attempt to vote on any controversial bill. It's ridiculous."

Continuing absences have become such an increasing problem that two members are in danger of being removed from the senate if they miss one more finance committee meeting, said Student Action Senator and Head of Financial Committee Jen Lee.

Many senators blamed the ASUC elections for the absences since many of the perennially absent senators are running for executive offices.

"It reflects poorly on them as candidates," Rowland said. "If they can't handle their current office, how can they be good executive officers?"

Others attributed the senators' absences to their lack of commitment.

"It's not a problem with the elections but with senators not taking their jobs seriously," said Executive Vice President Justin Christensen.

Some said the lack of attendance creates uneven representation in the senate, which limits the diversity of perspectives.

"I think it's a travesty that on a weekly basis, half the students at the university are not represented because senators don't take their job seriously," said APPLE Senator Daniel Frankenstein.

Others said they are concerned that the low attendance justifies the student body's already cynical view of the ASUC.

"I urge elected officials to remember what their purpose in being elected is and not to contribute to negative stereotypes of the ASUC, but fight them by doing the job they were elected to do," said Student Action Senator Greg Smith. "To do that job you have to be there."

Christensen attributed the low attendance to a number of senators who have "shed off their responsibilities as senator."

In Wednesday's ASUC Senate meeting, attending senators expressed frustration at the missing members since their absences caused complications in passing several bills.

Eleven people were there for a majority of the meeting, Rowland said.

The bill eliminating the One Campus Campaign passed Wednesday night, without extensive debate among senators.

Goatmilk Senator Sajid Khan said if more senators were present, the bill would have been more thoroughly discussed.

Many senators said they worry other bills are also not being thoroughly discussed before being passed because of senators' reluctance to cripple a bill with one vote.

"I think bills are passing because there are 14 senators in the room and no one wants to dissent," Khan said.

While the senators' continued absences are generally acknowledged and condemned by attending members, few solutions have been offered.

Several senators proposed an initiative to lower the number of accepted absences, currently at four. This would require an initiative to pass through the next ASUC election in spring 2003.

Senators encouraged students to look carefully at who they elect and to take their vote seriously.

"I think the students need to look at who they are electing, and the senators need to take their job more seriously," said Frankenstein.


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