Inexperienced SA senate struggles through first term

In an Oct. 8 senate meeting, Anthony Smith, the president of  Student Association, addressed the SA Senate with a request: to go online and read the SA constitution.

The request, made to a senate whose 14 members contain 11 freshmen exemplified the uphill climb SA faces as it breaks in an inexperienced group of senators.

Oswego State’s Student Association Senate is the student governing body on campus. It passes bills and resolutions involving the entire Oswego community, yet not as many people are involved as would be expected.

The 14 members of senate meet every Tuesday at 6 p.m. in Lanigan 103 and committees, which each senator is required to be a member of at least one of, meet sporadically throughout the week.

To become a member of the senate one must be an enrolled student at Oswego State with a GPA of the college minimum for academic standing (2.0).

According to the SA constitution, senators become members once their constituency elects them. However, the current senators have been elected through gathering signatures of their constituency. For residents, 50 signatures are required and 100 signatures for At-Large senators.

The number of senate seats is apportioned as such per the SA bylaws (Section Two, Article III, Subsection A, B and C):

-For every 200 on-campus residents in a residence hall, one seat is apportioned

-For every 270 off-campus residents, one seat is apportioned

-For every 500 enrolled students, one At-Large seat is apportioned

Under these terms, according to the senate roll call, the seats are apportioned as follows:

– 24 seats from residence halls

– 3 for Cayuga

– 2 for Funnelle

– 1 for Riggs

– 2 for Hart

– 3 for Seneca

– 2 for Oneida

– 2 for Mackin Complex/Sheldon

– 1 for Scales

– 1 for Waterbury

– 3 for Onondaga

– 2 for The Village

– 7 from off-campus

– 8 At-Large senate seats

– 3 Faculty Assembly seats

Of these senators, the only returning member is Francisco Perez, a senior political science major. Perez has been a member of senate since his sophomore year.

“When I first joined, I was in the same position that they are in,” Perez said of the 11 freshman senators.  “I didn’t know what was going on. Senate had a lot of rules and there’s a lot of processes that happen and I didn’t know what they were.”

Perez said back then there were older senators in the senate who did not help newer senators learn much. Perez said he had to learn a lot on his own.

“Now, things are on the other side,” Perez said. “So all the senators are either freshmen or it’s their first year in the organization.”

Perez has a positive outlook for the future of this year’s senate. He is tabling in the Campus Center with other senators to try to increase involvement.

“Based on what we’ve done in the past years, it’s pretty much the same. I definitely think it’s of a different nature,” Perez said. “The fact that we already have 14 right now is pretty good.”

While Student Association Vice President Benjamin June was a member of senate last year, he does not get to vote in the senate unless there is a tie to be broken. June is, however, the president of the senate and oversees it.

This means that 13 senators who represent the entire student activity fee-paying body of Oswego State have no formal training in being a member of senate. All senators are required to take an oath before they are officially senators. In this oath, they swear to preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the Student Association to the best of their ability. They take this oath with their hand on top of said constitution.

So, as Smith asked senators at the Oct. 8 senate meeting to read the SA constitution, it appeared that these senators took an oath to uphold a constitution they knew little about.

The senate also failed to reach quorum on Oct. 1 for their meeting. Quorum is one half the total number of senators plus one, but this number can never be less than 12 senators. Not enough senators showed up in order to make the meeting official, resulting in a missed week of senate business.

Despite this lack of involvement from the student body, June is content.

“I think it’s good,” June said. “We are kind of like starting fresh as opposed to other years where we did have a lot of people returning. But to see this many new people, who are just coming straight into it with no experience at all, we’re up a lot from other years.”

June also has high expectations for involvement in the senate.

“Every year is slow to start, but we’re not falling behind other years, we’re even a little bit ahead of some other years,” June said. “We only have 14 people now, we’re hoping by the end of the year we’ll have like 30. I’m feeling good about this year.”

Each senator is paid $100 at the end of the semester. Smith said that they essentially “get their student activity fee back.”

He also noted that the compensation is only for those who attend all senate meetings and committee meetings. For every senate meeting missed, $5 is deducted from this amount. For every committee meeting missed, $3 is deducted. For every required office hour missed, $1 is deducted. Smith said that usually the payment to senators is not the full amount.

Since the first official senate meeting on Sept. 17, the senate has passed one bill and one resolution. The bill concerned the funding of the League of Legends club in the amount of $110. The resolution was passed Tuesday and it urged the U.S. government to quickly end the shutdown that lasted 16 days and was resolved Wednesday. This resolution came after Smith recommended it as a possible resolution a week prior.

Smith thinks that this lack of legislation will change once senators are more experienced.

“I hope that in the future, next semester, when they know what they’re doing, we can get more done,” Smith said.

Smith also said that there is not a particular issue that has sparked heated debate on campus.

“We don’t have anything to rally behind,” Smith said. “We’re not being challenged.”

June also understands the lack of productivity.

“I would like to see more, but I understand why we haven’t had much because we only have one returning person who has experience writing bills [in senate],” June said.

A bill-writing workshop for senators will be held this Saturday, and June thinks the number of legislation being presented will change greatly following. June is not concerned for the senate, but he knows their limitations due to inexperience.

“I’d like us to go quicker, but I understand that it’s better for everyone if we take it a bit slower,” June said.

Smith is working on changing the image of SA from that of a piggy bank for student organizations to the voice of the student body to the administration of Oswego State. He wants students to know they do have power on this campus to make changes and help better the community.

SA is, as Smith alluded to, best known for its money. Each student at Oswego State is required to pay a $97 student activity fee that is voted on every two years by the student body. Over $700,000 is paid to SA each semester and roughly $1.4 million each academic year.

Occasionally, students from organizations will approach SA to request additional funds that their annual budgets do not cover. They plea their case in front of the senate then a senator volunteers to help them in writing a bill requesting more money.

When the bill is complete, it is brought to the senate where it is voted on. It is up to the discretion of each senator to vote on a bill he or she sees best for the student body and his or her constituents.

When a motion to vote on a bill is proposed by a senator, he or she can motion to vote by any means they see fit. This ranges from secret ballot, yays and nays, to even animal noises.

“Sometimes in committees we don’t have a lot to do and say, ‘Oh, motion to vote on this by meows and barks,’” June said.