The Arizona Desert Lamp

ASUA: “Constitution, Schmonstitution”

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 28 January 2009

Today’s article on the Student Uprising of 2009 contains a very interesting little tidbit:

In an impromptu and brief ASUA meeting on Tuesday, the senators voted to donate $2,000 in order to help support the ASA in their efforts to transport the students to Phoenix.

“Senators are very passionate in representing the students in this aspect [Emphasis added — EML],” ASUA Executive Vice President Jessica Anderson said. “Their (discretionary) account is designed to carry out functions of the student voice and this is probably the biggest opportunity they will have all year to do that.”

In the aspect of allocating money, ASUA has been quite vigilant. When it comes to keeping tuition down, limiting the rise (or creation) of extra student fees, or effectively representing the student body . . . well, an elected body only has so much time!

Deciding to allocate the meeting so clandestinely is a curious move. The Senate meeting is still scheduled to occur today, and unless the protesters were unable to meet the basic up-front costs of the trip (i.e. deposits for buses), there’s no reason that the Senate can’t wait until the next day to allocate the funds for the full cost of the busses, lunches, etc.

Instead, the Senate has chosen to allocate $2,000 in what the Wildcat euphemistically refers to as an “improptu” — i.e. unscheduled, unadvertised, and unavailable for access to anyone outside of ASUA — meeting.

The ASUA Constitution has two relevant clauses on meetings, in Section II:

2. All Senate Meetings shall comply with Arizona Revised Statutes, herein ARS, 38- 431.01, regarding open meetings.

3. Any  three (3) voting members of the Senate shall be able to call a special meeting in accordance with ARS.

So, the special meeting itself is OK — insofar as it complies with the Revised Statutes. Over to ARS, 38-431.01:

A. All meetings of any public body shall be public meetings and all persons so desiring shall be permitted to attend and listen to the deliberations and proceedings. All legal action of public bodies shall occur during a public meeting.

You could argue that the meeting technically was open to the public, since anyone who happened to be wandering by could hypothetically wander in. It’s hard to say that such a meeting, however, is in concert with the spirit of the statute.

More interesting, though, was the following provision in the same section:

E. A public body of a city or town with a population of more than two thousand five hundred persons shall:

1. Within three working days after a meeting, except for subcommittees and advisory committees, post on its internet website, if applicable, either:

(a) A statement describing the legal actions taken by the public body of the city or town during the meeting.

(b) Any recording of the meeting.

2. Within two working days following approval of the minutes, post approved minutes of city or town council meetings on its internet website, if applicable, except as otherwise specifically provided by this article.

The immediate reaction is to assume that this only applies to City Council. However, the article’s definition of “public body” reads as follows:

6. “Public body” means the legislature, all boards and commissions of this state or political subdivisions, all multimember governing bodies of departments, agencies, institutions and instrumentalities of the state [Emphasis added – EML] or political subdivisions, including without limitation all corporations and other instrumentalities whose boards of directors are appointed or elected by the state or political subdivision.

Then, the definition of “public institution,” in ARS 38-101:

2. “Public institution” means any institution maintained and paid for from a fund raised by taxation or by public revenue.

The UA is clearly a public institution, and ASUA is a legislative body ostensibly representing an institution with 37,000+ members, in a city of almost a million. I’m hoping that a law student or other legal type can point out my error — otherwise, the Senate is operating in violation of its Constitution.

This problem wouldn’t exist, of course, if the Senate would simply allocate money at their scheduled meetings, and if they would put the minutes, which are recorded on GarageBand, online. Then again, I’m just nitpicking — after all, we have super-serial black clothes (Emo Riots ’09?) to wear!

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