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USG talks Honor Committee referenda, approves Dean's Date concert

Debate raged over the constitutionality of the Honor Committee referenda at the weekly Undergraduate Student Government meeting on Dec. 10.

Senator Eli Schechner ’18 advanced an appeal against the approval of the Honor Committee Referenda by chief elections manager Laura Hausman ’20.

The elections handbook stipulates that the sponsor be an individual or an ODUS-recognized student organization, and Schechner argued that the USG academics subcommittee on the Honor System did not constitute an ODUS-recognized student organization.

Schechner voiced worry over the precedent set by shortening the winter elections cycle and the adoption of a USG subcommittee as a sponsor of the Honor Committee referenda. He believed that counting the entire Senate as sponsor of the referenda would also be “disingenuous” and inaccurate.

“We have had a history over the last month or so of bypassing and rewriting several of our own rules,” said Schechner. “This suggests that there is this internal drive to make this change, that we are going to steamroll it through without putting any concerns for the institutions that stand in the way of that.”

According to U-Councilor Nick Wu ’19, a focus on procedures detracts from the purpose of the Senate to give voice to students.

“Just because rules are in place does not mean that we ought not to change them,” said Wu. “The constitution is able to be amended because it is not perfect.”

Schechner, however, maintained that it was necessary to act in accordance with Senate rules.

In a 15-minute video presentation, Louis Tambellini ’18 articulated his concerns over the election process and the consequences of the Honor Committee referenda. Following the video, USG members discussed its context for another 10 minutes. 

Tambellini claimed that meetings of the USG academics subcommittee on the Honor System remained closed to the public despite what the USG constitution sets forth. He also stated that minimal dialogue took place between the subcommittee and the administration and student groups.

“There were just eight subcommittee members acting in what they think is the best interest of the University,” Tambellini said.

Academics committee chair Patrick Flanigan ’18 sharply disagreed with Tambellini’s contentions. Flanigan stated that the meetings were closed because of the confidential and potentially “embarrassing” nature of the meetings.

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“I do not like the paternalistic attitude towards the students that’s been taken up that we can’t decide what I believe are common-sense reforms,” Flanigan said. “It only takes one-fourth of the students to defeat this.”

“Throughout this process, I have been called sexist, a zealot, undemocratic, unfair, secret, manipulative, and it is beginning to wear on me,” Flanigan said. “I think it is time the students vote.”

The Senate voted not to uphold Schechner’s appeal.

Parliamentarian Jonah Hyman ’20 introduced two alternatives in case of a runoff election for USG president.  Senate Resolution 9-2017 would implement a system of instant runoff voting, or ranked voting. Senate Resolution 7-2017 would delay a runoff election into winter recess. As is, elections results are typically released two days after voting ends, which would bring the election’s conclusion into winter recess.

Schechner resisted Senate Resolution 9-2017 because of the “confusing” ballot format with an instant runoff ballot structure. However, he also expressed regret that voting turnout would decrease during the runoff election.

The Senate passed Senate Resolution 7-2017 to delay the runoff election. Voting in the runoff election would happen from Saturday, Dec. 16, at noon to Monday, Dec. 18, at noon, and results would be available on Tuesday at noon during winter recess. 

In an effort to hold a concert during Dean’s Date celebrations, social committee chair Lavinia Liang ’18 further petitioned the Senate for $25,000. The Senate approved the request for funding, and the Social Committee will use the money this week to bid for the headliner.

Additionally, Undergraduate Student Life Committee Chair Tania Bore ’20 presented modifications to the USLC charter. The amended charter primarily eliminates the involvement of the Graduate Student Government in USLC and transfers some liaisons into the Diversity and Equity Committee. In a previous USG meeting, the USLC committee realized that it had not been following its charter and decided to reform it. 

“We do intend on coming back and evaluating what was effective and what was not effective,” Bore said.

In her presidential report, USG president Myesha Jemison ’18 discussed the University portraiture committee and the Class of 2020 Facebook page.

The Senate voted to approve the amended charter unanimously. This was the last USG meeting in 2017. Meetings will resume after winter recess.