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USG discusses Honor Committee appointments, referendum at weekly meeting

The Undergraduate Student Government discussed amendments regarding Honor Committee appointments and referendum rules in their weekly meeting on April 23.

Class of 2019 Senator Andrew Ma '19 presented a revised version of an amendment to the USG Senate Constitution. The amendment would raise the threshold for the confirmation of Honor Committee members from a simple majority to a supermajority of the Senate. Additionally, the amendment would also have the voting session for prospective Honor Committee members occur in an executive session. Ma indicated in last week's meeting that this change would allow voting members to speak and vote freely without fear of retribution.

In response to concerns regarding the reduced transparency of the newly-proposed selection process, Ma edited the amendment to include an open session. The open session would precede the executive session and allow for a question and answer session with the Honor Committee Chair and nominees. Furthermore, it would provide the general public an opportunity to discuss any concerns regarding the Honor Code.

Additionally, Ma stated that no information regarding a candidate's reason for rejection would be released from the executive session.

Honor Committee Chair Carolyn Liziewski '18 said that because candidates who would be voted upon in the executive session would have already passed two rounds of interviews from the Honor Committee, releasing this information would help the Honor Committee decide which candidates they should pass along in future application cycles.

U-Councilor Michael Asparrin '19 argued that publicizing the reasons for rejection could potentially reveal the person who broached those reasons.

"I think the issue is if someone feels that they have a concern about a nominee that is confidential," Asparrin said. "If it's something private between them and the nominee and we say this is the reason we did not want to go forward with the nominee, that outs who the person with the concern was."

The Senate voted to approve the amendment as presented by Ma.

Academics Committee Chair Patrick Flanigan '18 and Ma presented a separate amendment to the Senate Constitution regarding the referendum turnout threshold.

Under the current system, a referendum may pass only if receives a simple majority and at least one-third of the undergraduate student body votes on a position.

Flanigan presented a scenario in which he found this system to be flawed.

"Let's say 30 percent of students vote 'yes' and nobody votes 'no.' In that case, 100 percent of the students who voted, voted 'yes,' but the referendum would fail because it did not reach the turnout threshold. Now let's say, instead of zero percent, 10 percent of the students voted 'no,' for 30 percent in favor, and 10 percent against. Because the referendum meets the 33 percent threshold, it now passes, " Flanigan explained. "The problem is 'no' votes in these referenda count towards getting the referendum to count."

The amendment would change the voter turnout threshold to require one-sixth of the undergraduate student body voting 'yes.'

Additionally, the amendment would reduce the number of petition signatures required to propose a referendum from the original rule of 10 percent of the undergraduate student body to 200 undergraduates.

Ma stated that this change would make referendum sponsorship more accessible to individuals and small student groups.

The amendment is scheduled to be voted upon by the Senate in next week's meeting, which will take place Sunday at 5 p.m.