Several of USM’s 36th Student Senate have resigned their posts and several more threatened to resign last week due to scheduling conflicts. Senate Chair Emily Fitch, a senior chemistry major, said the executive members were working hard to fix the problem and also fill the open positions.
“(The scheduling) was done at the end of last semester,” said Fitch, “and it was my job as vice-chair to do the scheduling.” Senate meetings are scheduled every Friday and are intended to take place around the senators’ class and work schedules.
“I consulted a fair amount of senators but it was hard because it was the beginning of summer,” said Fitch. “A lot of people weren’t around and a lot of people didn’t have their schedules yet. So I based it on the historical meeting times of the senate and based it around the class scheduling at USM, (and) most classes end fairly early on Fridays.”
Several senators threatened to resign due to the scheduling conflict. Others complained some meeting times conflicted with other organization meetings requiring their attendance.
Among the students to resign are
Amanda Slattery, Anna Korsen, Kelly Parks and Katherine Joyce. Former chair Ryan Harnden resigned early in the semester to focus on academics.
In a Sept. 17 e-mail interview, senator Lauren Allen said a lack of “a prior indication of when senate meetings will occur undermines the fact that our constituents, students that vote for us to represent their particular demographics and interests, aren’t wasting their vote.
“If we are voted into the student senate seat,” Allen continued, “later to find out the scheduling of meetings aren’t conducive to our class schedule it undermines the purpose of elections. This is clearly a disservice to the student body.”
The conflict peaked at a senate meeting held on Sept. 7, when the governing body “lost quorum” and had to end the meeting early.
“When you lose quorum, the meeting’s off, we suspend,” said senator Alex Bressler. “To have a meeting we need to have over half of a senate. In the beginning of the meeting, officially the senate has 21 people-it doesn’t matter whether they are there or not, so all we needed to have quorum was 11 people.
“Once you accept a certain number of resignations,” Bressler continued, “obviously, the number goes down.” Parks and Harnden both resigned their positions during this meeting, bringing the number of representatives down to 19. Bressler said a few more senators left for the Board of Student Organizations meeting to follow.
Allen defended the senate’s executive members in her e-mail. “I can say, in confidence,” she wrote, “the e-board and senate have taken these issues seriously.”
“It was blown up as a big issue, I think, by a couple people,” said Fitch, “but it really it’s something that takes time to deal with, and it’s something we’ve been dealing with.”
Fitch said newly-appointed vice chair Benjamin Taylor is now hard at work to correct the scheduling problem, and added the senate’s executive committee was considering changing a segment of their constitution to include first-semester freshmen as eligible to run for senate.
“It’s tough,” she said. “It’s not always easy to accommodate lots of people, but we’re doing what we can.”