SGA Senate debates office hours to increase production and accessibility

Madison Fantozzi/News Director

The Student Government Council Senate discussed internal changes at its meeting on Feb. 24, but a bill to create office hours for the senators received great opposition and is being redrafted.

Senators James D’Cruz and Adriana McLamb proposed the bill to “provide greater accessibility to administration and the student body” in the form of five office hours a week.

The bill read that all senators would be required to hold office hours in which they “allow members of the student body and administration to voice their concerns and opinions” anywhere on campus.

“Office hours” were defined as regular events held by senators in a previously stated location in which students are given the opportunity to meet with the senator.

The bill was not voted on after senators questioned if there is a student demand and what exactly constitutes an office hour.

“I’m not sitting in the office for five hours,” said Senator David Dugard. “No one from my school would come to see me.”

But Senate Speaker Nicolas Aquart said office hours go beyond meeting with constituents.

“This is about SGA work, not just meeting with constituents,” he said. “There are a lot of things wrong in our legislation and on our campus that we can hit, but we’re not being as productive as we can be.”

Aquart said committee meetings and SGA events would also count toward a senator’s weekly hours.

He pointed to a lack of legislative writing and ongoing budget deliberations.

“I don’t want deliberations to cut senators’ pay,” he said. “It’s hard to justify how much we pay you without office hours. There’s no documentation of work.”

Aquart asked how many senators have written a bill this semester. Only seven senators in attendance raised their hands.

“With more hours in the office, you may write more bills and get more work done,” he said. “Fight for your paychecks.”

Vice President Diwaldo Rabre also supported the bill’s premise.

[pullquote]“With more hours in the office, you may write more bills and get more work done,” Nicolas Aquart, Senate Speaker, Student Government Association[/pullquote]

“We’re making it something you have to do because if its something you should or ought to do, senators aren’t going to do it,” Rabre said.

This difference in the written bill and its explanation created confusion among the senators — some who said the bill itself did not reflect spoken intentions. This caused the bill to be tabled indefinitely.

Aquart said he is expecting a redrafted bill with necessary specifications on March 3.

Another bill that raised debate but was ultimately passed was one updating the Senate’s dress code to require business casual attire in the chamber.

“Business casual attire” is defined in the bill as khaki pants, jeans without holes or tears, slacks, skirts, short-sleeved polo shirts and long-sleeved shirts. It excludes tennis shoes, tight or short skirts, and sweatshirts.

Questions were raised about discretion. Some senators said they do not consider jeans business casual, while others asked if a nursing student would be allowed to wear their scrubs from class.

“We’re all college students and should know what business casual is,” SGC-MMC President Lianne Sippin said. “It’s silly to get crazy over the details.”

“Here as student representatives, we should be dressing for the job we want — not the job we have,” said Senator Kevin Maestre. “We should dress as professionals or it doesn’t seem like we’re serious.”

If a senator is not dressed to code, they will be asked to leave the chamber and marked absent.

The Senate also passed a bill requiring its members to provide proof of attending at least five SGA sponsored events during each semester of their term. This is to “provide greater association between senators and their constituents,” according to the legislation.

The Senate also allocated some of the finance committee’s final dollars to the American Medical Student Association.

It appropriated $1,800 for four students’ airfare and ticket to attend the AMSA 64th Annual Convention and Exposition.
According to Aquart, this leaves the finance committee with about $500 left for appropriation this semester.

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