Facing high levels of both internal and external scrutiny, a polarizing constitutional amendment involving voting procedure was voted down by a slim margin at the Sept. 23 DePaul Student Government (SGA) meeting.
SGA voted against an amendment that would have made it possible for members of SGA to decide whether the outcome of their votes be made public. Because the amendment failed to get the required two-thirds majority, the SGA president will continue to decide whether or not votes will be made public.
According to the text, the proposed amendment would require a “vote by the general body (to) hold a closed vote directly prior to the discourse of (a given) line item,” thus deciding its status as a closed or open vote. In effect, SGA members would have broad authority to determine on a case-by-case basis whether its individual voting records were to be publicized to the student body.
Proponents touted the measure as a “step in the right direction,” lauding both the potential for privacy and increased autonomy from the SGA president that it offered the general body. In the past, members have felt subject to intense and occasionally damaging backlash stemming from their voting choices, according to Vanessa Cadvillo, president of SGA. In addition, the current SGA constitution allows only the president to call when a vote will be open or closed. The amendment, supporters argued, would resolve both issues.
“I think using the amendment is actually making SGA more transparent, because we have the ability as the general body to choose whether we want a secret ballot or an open ballot,” Executive Vice President of Operations Adrianna Kemper said. “Without this amendment, it’s under the discretion of the president.”
She added that it would be helpful in creating a “safe space” for the general body.
Read the full notes from the meeting below or SGA Meeting Notes Sept. 24:[aesop_document type=”pdf” src=”http://depauliaonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/SGA-Meeting-Notes-Sept.-24.pdf” caption=”Click to view notes from the Sept. 23 SGA general body meeting. “]
Those who voted against the amendment, on the other hand, were less inclined to see past the amendment’s perceived shortcomings. About 10 of them gathered in the gallery section of the meeting in attempt to persuade the general body to vote against the measure. Chiefly, they expressed concerns about the amendment’s potential effect on transparency.
“Quite frankly, I don’t know why any elected officials feel that they deserve any amount of privacy when it comes to their voting record because, as an elected official, you are supposed to serve my interests,” Mikaela Ziegler said. “It doesn’t make any sense to me that I don’t have the right to know how somebody who I voted for voted.”
Others contended that the accountability that comes with open voting is simply part of the job that the SGA members signed up for.
“Why do you guys need a closed vote to begin with?” Kyla Patterson said. “How are we supposed to hold you accountable? If you’re so afraid of retribution from your constituents, you should ask yourself why you even became a student representative to begin with.”[box]Read more coverage of Student Government Association[/box]
The general body was quick to point out that they were not, in fact, public servants, and consequently require a higher degree of delicacy.
“While we are a student government – it’s in the name – it’s a student organization at the end of the day,” Treasurer Damian Wille said. “We are all students, not elected U.S. officials.”
President Cadvillo agreed, adding that “we are students, and we are representing the student body, but we need to be treated with a level of respect.”
Some members, including Senator for Community and Government Affairs Bobby Robaina and Senator for Mission and Values Michael Mulligan, suggested that the initial vote in the new procedure be adjusted so that it be held in an open format rather than closed, a sentiment echoed by Senator for Graduate Students Chris Witting. This measure was rejected twice by Popp, who said that the open vote would still leave general body members vulnerable to bullying and peer pressures.
Following nearly an hour of discussion, a motion was called to put the amendment to vote. Although only six senators voted against the measure – Robaina, Mulligan, Albano, Witting, Favela and Cohen –when coupled with one abstention from LAS Senator Bohdana Bahriy, it failed to attain the super majority needed to pass.
Vice President Ric Popp, who presided over the rejected amendment, suggested that future revisions be brought to him in advance for the sake of efficiency.