Jan 262011
Authors: Andrew Carrera

Although each CSU student pays more than $70 each year to fund student government, officials say it’s difficult getting some senators to fulfill their elected responsibilities –– a difficulty that one senator hopes might disappear with tighter regulations.

Although senators are not paid, senator job descriptions require attending Senate committee meetings, reporting back to college councils and going to weekly Senate sessions, according to the ASCSU governing documents.

But a look at attendance sheets obtained by the Collegian and conversations with ASCSU officials reveal chronic senator absenteeism that obstructs legislation from being passed and student interests from being met with few or no consequences for offending senators.

“It could become a problem if it’s not addressed right away,” said ASCSU President Cooper Anderson. “In my three years as a senator … I was there for almost every single session.”

Eric Berlinberg, ASCSU deputy chief of staff, said that college councils increasingly get frustrated every year because senators don’t report back to them.

“With senator attendance to college councils, it’s actually a big concern that I’ve heard from them over and over again,” Berlinberg said.

Committee meetings are also problem spots for ASCSU officers trying to get senators to fulfill their responsibilities by attending their assigned groups.

“It can sometimes be a little bit of an issue getting (enough people) at committee,” said Sen. Katie Cole of the College of Liberal Arts, who chairs the Senate University Issues Committee.

“This happened especially last semester because we didn’t have a lot of legislation, so people felt that it wasn’t important to come,” she said.

According to the ASCSU Constitution, senators must regularly attend committees to which they are assigned. The penalty for missing two committee meetings is removal from the committee. But Cole said that hasn’t really been enforced.

Because Cole’s committee did not have enough senators in attendance before the Jan. 19 Senate meeting, it could not bring up legislation it was supposed to during the next week’s Senate session. The bill concerning election laws that was supposed to be discussed was eventually voted on and passed but one week late.

Such attendance problems have also hindered College of Liberal Arts Sen. Joe Eden’s External Affairs Committee from achieving productive discussions on student business.
“I think people put it as really low priority right now,” he said.

To fix the problem, Sen. Keegan Schulz from the College of Natural Sciences has written legislation that makes it easier to impeach senators who chronically miss functions that they are constitutionally obliged to attend, citing problems with senator attendance to sessions as the reason for its introduction.

In the days leading up to the bill’s release, Schulz told the Collegian that while senators were fairly new to the process during their first semester on the job, the time has come to fulfill job expectations.

“I knew what I was signing up for when I took my position as senator … they know what the expectations are (too),” he said. “So if you’re not going to take your position seriously and you’re not going to do the minimum requirements … you shouldn’t be here.”

The legislation was briefly discussed then sent to the Committee on Internal Affairs with support for its passage spanning across colleges.

ASCSU Beat Reporter Andrew Carrera can be reached at news@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 6:10 pm

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