The Arizona Desert Lamp

ASUA Senate Meeting XXI: Rewriting the Rules

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 25 February 2009

Johnson Impeachment Trial

1. The Continuing Saga of the Impeachment By-Laws. The vote was tabled again today, after a somewhat intense discussion. Today, the Senate pointed out the essential aspect that the impeached figure needs to hear the charges being brought against him or her, a definite step forward.

We’ll table it here as well, but for now it’s worth wondering about an impeachment proceeding that effectively takes place behind closed doors in an executive session. Even when the official vote takes place, article charges are identified only by number “for confidentiality purposes . . . without reading the specific charges in public.” This is quite a deviation from the norm, even on the level of college governance.

2. Consent agenda. Sorry, nothing fun today.

3. Tabulation Room (Elections Code, part i). The Code requires the ASUA Senate to approve all members present at the tabulation of the votes (2-4.01). This really is a nominal thing, and in actuality it seems to consist of little more than designing the spreadsheet for the results presentation later on in the day. This should lead us to wonder why anybody needs to be in the room at all, except for the systems analyst techie responsible for “tabulating” (i.e. copying and pasting from WebReg) the results.

Of course, such a lone figure offers the possibility of fraud, and thus we need observers. The list offered by Commissioner Ho includes the entirety of the Elections Commission, the ASUA President, the ASUA Administrative Vice President, the aforementioned systems analyst, and two “ASUA Advisors.”

A few questions naturally emerge: Why does the presence of the Administrative Vice President required, but not that of the Executive Vice President? Was Tommy Bruce present in the room when he was running for reelection? Wouldn’t it be nice if we had actually established parties, so that each party could send monitors? Why are there no officials present that aren’t affiliated with ASUA – UA Law students, say?

Now, it may seem like I’m nitpicking here – but this is kind of the point, especially when taken in light of the first topic of conversation at today’s meeting. Right now, ASUA is borderline paranoid when it comes to impeachment proceedings, fueled in large part by the situations surrounding Cade Bernsen (who, incidentally, had the charges against him dismissed by the Dean of Students) and David Reece.

Events certainly should help to shape policy; but shaping policy is not a purely reactive process. One should be concerned about these sorts of issues now, before they turn into serious snafus. As it currently stands, ASUA would rather insist that everything is going to be OK, because everyone is just so nifty and swell, and wait until some no-good, very bad official gets into power and mucks it all up.

4. “Smooth” Elections in Action. Elections at the UA, as we all know, are not run by the rule of law but by diktat. Today, the Commissioner was fortunate enough to share one with us, concerning the referendum process:

With the prospect of one referendum appearing on the ASUA General Elections ballot on March 10 and 11th, here is an updated version of the current procedures as established by former Elections Commissioner [Amy] Adamcin.

Currently, as it stands, the referendum process is defined as “The Elections Commissioner will refer to the ASUA Elections Code, ASUA Constitution, and By-Laws, the Code of Conduct for Students, and the Arizona Revised Statutes for all matters concerned referendum campaigns in ASUA Elections.”

Translation: if you want to put something on the ballot, you serve without any recourse under the rule of the Commissioner. Yet this is probably one regulation that should be in the elections code, rather than buried in Article VII of the Constitution, which only describes how many signatures are needed to place a petition on the ballot (5 percent of the electorate during an election, 10 percent to call a special election). The memorandum goes on to spell out new additions to the process:

To further clarify the process, those wishing to appear on the ballot must first ask for nominating petitions. The number of petition signatures required shall be set by the ASUA constitution. Within obtaining the nominating petitions, those interested in appearing on the ballot shall have a two week period until the petitions are due. This two (2) week timeline must fit within a week from the dates of the General Election to ensure time to verify signatures.

So, forgive me for being brusque, but couldn’t it just be said that, “Nominating petitions will be available for access three weeks from the general election date. Petitions will be due no later than one week before the election date?”

This paragraph alters the former policy – again, not spelled out, because regulations matter only when it comes to Facebook and MySpace – in which referendums, like candidates, had to have their signatures in no later than two weeks before the general election date.

What was the problem with that policy? Well, according to Commissioner Ho, because the two-week deadline has already passed, “I have extended the deadline until one week before [the general election].” So, what’s wrong with letting the old deadline pass?

Because there is one organization out seeking signatures for a referendum – PIRG. For some time now, they have been soliciting signatures in an attempt to add a $3-per-year fee to UA tuition. If they had the adequate signatures, this would not be an issue. However, they apparently do not; and rather than accepting the failure of their campaign, they have instead chosen to modify the preexisting standard.

Let us not mince words about what has happened. PIRG, an organization with offices within ASUA, is seeking to implement by referendum a ballot initiative to grant themselves a $4-per-year fee. When they did not get the necessary amount of signatures in by the de facto deadline, the Elections Commissioner instead chose to change the deadline. What’s more, when Sen. Andre Rubio asked if this change to a one-week period was just for this election, Commissioner Ho responded in the affirmative. This is a one-time deal, with a very specific objective: get PIRG on the ballot, by any means necessary. Mr. Ho also affirmed that referendum groups cannot campaign until the signatures have been verified by the Commission, which would make this email highly suspect. The email, which we received on February 14 (some valentine that was), also mentioned that, “[PIRG is] working to get funding on campus by adding $2.00 per student per semester to the election ballot.” This would seem to indicate solicitation for far longer than the two weeks specified by this memorandum.

Thank goodness for Sen. Seastone, the ex officio Faculty member of the body, who called this out for what it is: “You’re changing the rules in the middle of the game. Rules were made in advance.” Yet his wisdom was not heeded, except by Sen. Nick Macchiaroli, the lone dissenter against the rest of the Senate.

5. Erevnocracy 2.0. What, you actually thought that rule-by-survey was over? Former Notehall-er and current Academic Affairs Director Sam Ellis presented a new scheme for making it your government: more surveys! This reincarnated corpse of ASUA Pulse goes by the name of “Be Heard.” Assuming that this program gets put into place, as a candidate Kristen Godfrey will already be more successful in her campaign promises than most of the current Senate.

The surveys will be conducted through the boy-howdy-that’s-nifty Academic Affairs site, and the first survey is scheduled to be released on March 15 – right in the middle of spring break. As an incentive to encourage participation, weekly prizes will be offered in the form of bookstore gift cards. Furthermore, a “Be the Change” scholarship (ugh) of $750 will be offered to those who provide the most useful information in the offered field-box.

Well, hey now — we’ve offered quite a few (hopefully) useful suggestions in our time here. . . and right now, we’re operating on a budget of somewhere between $15 and $150, depending on whether or not malt liquor can be deducted as a business expense. . .

/end shameless rent-seeking

Unfortunately, ASUA seems to determined to make the SSF process look scientific in comparison. When several Senators proposed that this survey be merged with the mildly-amusing and 100%-unscientific Wildcat survey, Mr. Ellis did not rule out the option. Sen. Mackenzie, meanwhile, brilliantly summed up the zeitgeist when he wondered out loud if a fifteen minute survey might not be too long, and lose student attention. The survey, as it currently stands, can only be accessed by people who come to the website, setting up an inherent selection bias. At the very least, we hope that the site will display the total number of respondents, along with basic demographic information.

Incidentally, the NoteHall site has ditched the ASUA endorsement logo.

Other Notes:

-Three candidates were in attendance, according to EVP Anderson. I managed to catch sight of Nick Jones and Ryan Klenke, but I missed the third. If you wouldn’t mind identifying yourself in the comments (as you should get credit for caring about the institution), we’d appreciate it.

-The Senate is still Rolling.

UPDATE: I’ve been reminded that PIRG is in fact seeking a $2-per-semester fee, the same amount that student lobbying group ASA currently receives. Corrections have been added where necessary.


13 Responses

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  1. Connor Mendenhall said, on 26 February 2009 at 4:12 am

    Don’t tell the Senate, but they have the power to put the PIRG fee straight on the ballot if they choose. This isn’t a referendum, in which the Senate refers some question to the whole student body. It’s an initiative, which, you know, takes some initiative to collect enough signatures before the deadline. Declaring special rules just for PIRG is more insidious and opaque than just voting it in, but unfortunately, it’s not their last resort. If this came to a full vote, I very much doubt that respect for the unwritten election rules or the argument that maybe we shouldn’t coerce college kids into giving their lunch money to Ralph Nader would outweigh PIRG’s promise to “lobby on behalf of students.” Hell, they’re already in the ASUA office–it would just be expanding another program.

  2. Connor Mendenhall said, on 26 February 2009 at 4:52 am

    Also, what exactly prompted the Senate to suddenly pick up impeachment? Has it taken three years for a response to the Bernsen and Reece fiascos to amble through ASUA? I guess we’ve seen stranger things from student government, but I don’t understand how “take a crack at eliminating the right to confrontation” makes it onto the to-do list.

  3. Evan Lisull said, on 26 February 2009 at 9:57 am

    Re: Comment the First, they certainly can do that; and at this point, they probably should. Instead, though, PIRG would like to act as though this a genuine plebiscite, spurred by the “public interest” that they love so much.

    Re: Comment the Second, your guess is as good as mine. It came up last week apropos nothing. My only theory is that they’re worried that the upcoming Senate term is going to be crazy, as there will probably be (mirabile dictu) genuine disagreement amongst the future Senators.

  4. […] instead such concerns were tossed aside in favor of the important issues of spring break BAC cards, impeachment standards, and […]

  5. […] election. (Of course, establishing odds will be difficult; yet if this ‘Be the Change’ survey program gets off the ground, this could be a key project of theirs.) You could also reopen betting after […]

  6. Stephen Bieda III said, on 6 March 2009 at 7:42 pm

    This is the first I’ve heard or read about the fee, and my constituency group has not been afforded any part in the public discourse. It would seem that ASUA needs to keep in mind that there needs to be some respect to not only the GPSC, but to their own constituents about how to expand a service that is within their own office.

  7. […] PIRG cheated their way onto the ballot. You can read the background here, but the story boils down to this: This paragraph alters the former policy – again, not spelled […]

  8. […] points out a problem with PIRG’s ballot initiative beyond their slanted question and our enchanted legislators:  according to Supreme Court precedent, it’s probably unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme […]

  9. […] if there hadn’t already been enough elections madness for one year, the ballot itself has now been changed in media res: Voters logging on to the […]

  10. […] PIRG cheated their way onto the ballot. […]

  11. […] in Bizarro World, I did so half in jest. But as the tragicomic reign of elections commissioner Kenny Ho draws to a close, it feels more and more like the procedures of student government are being […]

  12. […] let’s see if President Bruce’s pledge to answer questions is genuine. How does changing the rules in the middle of the game constitute “proper channels”? If the President and the Senate are responsible for the […]

  13. […] for the online posting of Senate minutes and agendas since last October, to no avail. The proposed impeachment by-laws threaten to take the entire proceedings out the eyes of the public, opting instead to decide the […]

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