A growing number of unfilled positions in the Associated Students Senate recently prompted A.S. President Chad Charton to urge current senators to do their best to get the word out.
Charton told those in attendance at the organization’s Oct. 4 A.S. Senate meeting that only 13 of 26 senate positions were occupied.
Two significant implications resulting from the vacancies include a lack of perspective on issues discussed by the senate and a limit to the amount of discussion that can take place, according to A.S. Vice President Safa Sajadi.
The seriousness of the situation was again emphasized on Oct. 10 when A.S. Attorney General Hamid Jahangard announced his resignation, citing personal reasons. The A.S. attorney general, among other duties, runs formal voting procedures during official senate meetings and oversees the organization’s Constitutional Affairs Board.
In comments on Oct. 11, Jahangard said that current Constitutional Affairs Board Assistant Director Vista Ezzati will take over the CAB, and that the group will continue to review constitutions submitted to them by the Matador Involvement Center.
Because of his resignation and Charton’s absence at the Oct. 11 senate meeting, Sajadi juggled the tasks of president, vice president and attorney general during the meeting.
Victor Morales, Social and Behavioral Science II senator, resigned from his position earlier this month, leaving one of two senate seats from the college vacant. Additionally, several director positions within the organization remain vacant.
Charton also said one or two current senators might be ineligible from maintaining their senate seats for reasons related to absences from official A.S. Senate meetings. A final determination had not been made, according to Charton.
In addition, two of the five senate standing committees are lacking the necessary members to meet quorum, or a number of senators needed to conduct official business. The A.S. Academic Affairs Committee does not have a chair, which must be occupied by a Senate member, while the A.S. Programs Committee has a chair, but does not have the two additional senators that it requires to meet quorum.
“Aside from the chair, the committee is required to have two other senators in order to issue reports and resolutions,” Sajadi said.
Each senator is required to be part of a standing committee, according to Charton, but the low number of senators poses an obvious problem in filling all necessary positions.
“(The committees) can continue to explore items of concern, but cannot take formal action on them. If the issue is substantial enough it can be presented by myself,” he said.
Measures are in place to allow the senate to take action in cases where quorum in a committee is not present, Sajadi said.
A senator can motion to leave regular session during a senate meeting in order to operate in what is known as the “committee of the whole,” she said.
The committee of the whole, if the motion passes, can then hear the reports or recommendations from the specific committees lacking quorum and can submit recommendations for action to the Senate. The entire senate acts as a committee and in turn submits the decision to itself to be voted on after returning to regular session.
Sajadi said senators urged students to pick up senate candidate applications for the upcoming election, scheduled for Oct. 25-26. As of the application deadline on Oct. 5, 18 applications for senate seats were submitted, more than normal for fall elections, according to A.S. officials.
But after eligibility of each applicant was determined by the Elections Committee, only 11 qualified applicants remained, according to Leila Varzideh, A.S. director of elections.
Four of the eligible candidates are incumbents. Of the seven remaining candidates, three will be competing for two available upper division seats.
The other four candidates will be running unopposed for the senate seats of their particular colleges.
As a result, the infusion of “new blood” into the senate that Varzideh discussed prior to the application deadline, will be present, but not in as substantial a way as the numbers of new members will remain low.
Michael Salseda can be reached at email@example.com.