Quibbling on quorum

On Tuesday night, something transpired during a vote on the 2011-12 Student Association budget. Senator Mike Pany walked out of the meeting in protest, hoping to collapse the quorum and force the body to entertain more debate and amendments on the legislation. Pany recognized the power of the single senator to forestall the budget process and took full advantage of the meeting’s dismal attendance.

He had conspirator Adrian Ramirez make a point of order after he left the room. But instead of the sound of the controversial budget grinding to a halt, those in the room heard Vice President Nathan Hemmes plow through full speed with the legislation, taking the Senate’s most important vote of the year without even half of the requisite senators present.

For an organization that so vociferously preaches that it represents the students, this is shameful behavior. A majority of the campus clubs went unrepresented in a crucial vote that divided more than $1.5 million, collected forcibly from student fees, among the campus’ various clubs and organizations.

In our opinion, the budget "passed" Tuesday night is illegal and illegitimate. While some might disagree with Pany’s tactics, it is a right and honorable rule that a minority of 11 senators should not be able to steer the course of S.A., of which we are all members. Abuse of the quorum rule or not, what Pany did had ramifications, but the leadership rammed the bill through despite him, and in flagrant abandon of rules which protect the rights of all constituents.

While debates will undoubtedly ensue about whether the point of order that questioned the quorum was in order (we believe it was), the ultimate truth may not change things. Regardless of legal wrangling, the vice president should have seen that too few senators were in attendance to take a representative vote and put the breaks on the meeting. The contentious, big-dollar budget is too substantive a matter to be decided by a backroom cadre of students.

Like the progenitor of the Rules of Order, Henry Robert, said, "It is dangerous to allow the transaction of substantive business to continue in the absence of a quorum."

Indeed, it is a danger that our so-called representatives have grasped whole-heartedly and brought to bed. Now they must lie with her. Let us hope she proves a kind mistress; it is our wager that she will not.