The mood of Thursday’s Senate meeting was reflected in the dark clouds that rolled in just before the meeting began. Most expected the controversy from last week’s discussion of Theme Housing to come up again, and the main item of business was a review of some of the Housing Committee’s SIH Recommendations by the Ad Hoc Sub-Committee.
Prior to the report and discussion, Student Senate President Elaine Wilson made a statement to the chamber, addressing the problems that the chamber encountered last week.
“To address some of the attacks leveled against Senate and against myself personally I’ll first say that in no way was freedom of speech quashed,” Wilson said. “Pursuant to the Student Senate by-laws, as a body we follow Robert’s Rules of Order which states that a member ‘cannot ‘yield the floor’ to let someone speak on your time, except that you can choose to let people answer questions on your time.’”
With obvious intent to keep this meeting civilized and on track, Wilson concluded her statement with a reinforcement of the procedural rules governing the session.
“If a senator or guest is not germane in their comments or questions,” Wilson said, “I will not hesitate to call a speaker out of order — comments ‘must have bearing on whether the pending motion should be adopted. Going off on irrelevant topics is not in order.’ Furthermore, ‘when a motion is pending, you may attack the idea or likely results of the proposal in strong terms’ but you may not make a personal attack that is inapposite to the discussion at hand. The motion before us tonight is to approve the groups recommended by the ad hoc SIH committee.”
The Ad Hoc Sub-Committee then presented the results of their review of the theme-housing applications.
“We added a questionnaire to the interview,” senior Senator Salleha Chaudhry said. “There were five questions and it was scored out of 50 points. If there were a tie we would use the point system. [With] only two houses did we use the points to break the tie. [Senior] Michael Leon was not in the room with us. We had a vote for every house and everything was documented very well.”
Some questions about the sub-committee’s bias were raised, but the motion to approve Q and A and Co-House and give priority block housing to Fire House and Best of the Midwest passed in under half an hour.
During the ‘Community Business’ section of the meeting, junior senator Allison Ehrhard made a statement in response to the one Wilson had made at the start of the meeting.
“I just wanted to respond to what you said earlier,” said Ehrhard. “Basically, you said that you weren’t attacking anyone’s freedom of speech [….] Even if that is some stupid constitutional rule, obviously it made for a really bad organization of discussion, clearly. This whole housing thing has been a complete failure.”
Referencing notes prepared for the purpose, Ehrhard continued on with her response.
“I contacted the Diversity Committee because this is a public institution where public statements are made and I will hold my leaders to a high integrity, because that’s what I believe in, and I think I can stand for what I believe is moral because that’s what I believe our Student Senate should do to represent our student body. I have a right as a student to contact the Faculty Diversity Committee and TKS and whoever the hell else I want to contact to exercise my freedom of speech and say that when I believe something is wrong, it’s wrong,” Erhard said.
Senators and independent students alike that were in attendance requested that next year everyone that attends the Senate meeting be educated, perhaps with an informational card, about their rights during senate, and how they can share in the meeting. Students felt particularly strong about this as some felt they were not allowed to defend their theme house at the last meeting because they did not know Robert’s Rules of Order.
Additionally, senators and students showed their support for recording the Student Senate meetings. A few students showed up with a video camera to record senate, and TKS recorded the meeting to post on www.theknoxstudent.com.
Before the main discussion of Theme Housing, Senate Treasurer senior Heather Kopec brought up a motion to either remove or place on probation inactive clubs. The clubs and rationale for their change in status was as follows:
Remove Organizational Club Status:
Acting on AIDS
Friends of the Free Store
Great Bells of Fire
Knox Sequential Arts Club
Stitch & Bitch
Rationale: These organizations have not been active on campus, many for two years or more, have not submitted budgets or requests for one in more than a year, have extremely limited/no membership, or have demonstrated that they can exist without club standing.
Film Production Club
Rationale: Probation is a warning that the club may not be performing well, needs to watch finances more closely, or has been inactive for a short amount of time (less than two terms), etc.
The motion to remove clubs from club-standing failed with Senate recommending that Kopec make a concerted effort to contact the clubs about their status before their removal.
Senators also discussed the possibility of getting more ashtrays around campus, particularly near the Gizmo.
Senate approved two additional fund requests: $460 to Alpha Phi Omega for Run-a-Thon and $1,600 to Lo Nuestro for Teatro Luna.
After fund approvals this week, the Student Senate Discretionary Fund had about $16,000 remaining for the year.
Student Senate sessions are held every Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Round Room of CFA.