S.A. members meet in Willard Straight Hall.

Boris Tsang / Staff Photographer

S.A. members meet in Willard Straight Hall.

October 5, 2017

After Controversial Facebook Post, Student Assembly Considers Procedures for Public Statements

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A controversial Student Assembly Facebook post written by several of its members prompted the group to pass a resolution last month establishing a protocol for future statements. However, that resolution violated the assembly’s own charter.

S.A. discussed in its Thursday meeting an amendment to its bylaws to set up procedures laid out in the resolution.

The earlier resolution, passed in September, was in response to a S.A. statement following the assault of a black student in Collegetown in what could have been a hate crime. The statement included controversial claims, and S.A. members were only given 15 minutes to vote on it.

Without a protocol for voting among members — specifically regarding quorum and timeframes for voting — “the whole thing was a mess because we don’t have any specific procedure,” said Sarah Park ’20, S.A. vice president of external affairs.

The resolution also violated the charter of the assembly, said Varun Devatha ’19, S.A. executive vice president. The amendment to the bylaws that the resolution proposed cannot thus be instated unless the charter is changed.

But the assembly, through the amendment, “would primarily be operating under the same assumptions as [the resolution],” Devatha said.

The amendment proposed a procedure that requires any statement published on behalf of Student Assembly be sent to the Executive Committee. If approved unanimously by that committee, the statement may be published immediately, according to the amendment. If the vote is split, the entire assembly must approve the statement by a two-thirds majority within 36 hours.

This procedure was introduced to S.A. members for discussion, allowing for debate on the parameters of requiring a two-thirds majority to publish a statement as well as a 36-hour window for voting.

Many members at the meeting expressed concern about the 36-hour time period, arguing that the responsibility of the assembly is to respond as quickly as possible.

“If something happens that requires a statement, it’s important enough for us to drop what we’re doing,” said Marco Peralta-Ochoa ’21, S.A. freshmen representative at-large. “I think those 12 extra hours are unnecessary.”

Other members argued the waiting period would ensure that a statement is more representative of the assembly’s views.

“When something is written, it should be certain that it represents the voice of the entire representative body and that body should have a chance to put those words that they want into the exact form they should be in,” said Dale Barbaria ’19, S.A. vice president of internal operations.

Assembly members seemed to agree, however, that there must be some mechanism for issuing statements.

“I think in the future that someone needs to be held accountable,” said Mayra Valadez ’18, S.A. undesignated representative at-large. “We should be keeping up with what’s happening and someone needs to be held accountable for making timely statements.”

To conclude this discussion, the Assembly voted to table the resolution, previously passed, indefinitely. This allows the assembly to proceed using the guidelines of the amendment and to bring its terms to discussion when necessary, according to Park.

Alisha Gupta ’20 contributed to this report.