ASUCI Addresses Senate Attendance Issues
ASUCI Senators submitted legislation last Thursday to impeach physical sciences senator Donald Trinh due to his chronic absence throughout the year. During the 2016 — 2017 school year, Trinh has only attended 39 out of 56 biweekly Senate meetings he was required to attend for the position. Out of “admitted negligence,” Trinh has missed five Senate meetings thus far this quarter, according to R52-79. In the entirety of his term as a Senator, he has only authored one legislation.
“His continued lack of participation in Senate meetings denies his constituents a voice and vote in Senate proceedings, one of the most important duties a Senator must complete,” reads the legislation, authored by Humanities Senator Tin Hong and President of the Senate Grecia Orozco. “His absence hurts Senate efforts to meet quorum and hold meetings in a timely fashion.”
Attendance issues have stalled Senate functioning all year, despite several attempts to discourage chronic absences. Former Information & Computer Science Senator Tej Vuligonda was impeached at the beginning of fall quarter 2016 because he had only attended 11 out of the 38 senate meetings he was required to attend. Like the current legislation heading up for a vote, the legislation to impeach Vuligonda was authored by Hong and seconded by Orozco, who have both attempted through their legislations to send a strict message about the seriousness of Senate positions.
Quorum, the minimum number of senators needed present to hold an official Senate meeting, is defined by the ASUCI Constitution as a majority of seated Senators. Thus, the current quorum needed for Senate is 16 members, given that every seat is officially filled.
As a result of the failure to meet quorum, the vast majority of Senate meetings begin well past the official 5 p.m. start time — often starting between 5:20 p.m. and 5:45 p.m. — and end promptly at 7 p.m., thus cutting down the time that Senate is allotted to discuss legislation.
In late fall quarter 2016, the 19-member Senate called for a special election to be held at the beginning of spring quarter, given that several Senators’ terms ended in the fall and less than half of Senate seats would have been filled in winter quarter otherwise. The special election was held in winter quarter and all Senate seats were filled, though this did not alleviate attendance problems.
Last Thursday’s Senate meeting was canceled because it failed to meet quorum due to the amount of excused and unexcused absences. Currently, senators are allowed excused absences from meetings if they have class scheduled at the same time, or if they have a personal emergency. While the bylaws state that Senators will not receive pay stipends for not attending meetings or attending less than half of the recorded meeting time in a week, this has not prevented Senators from being absent. Thus, according to Hong and Orozco’s legislation, frequent absences have ensured that students are not effectively represented in ASUCI.
According to the ASUCI constitution, Trinh would need to be impeached by a two-thirds vote of Senators, after which the the Judicial Board will hold a hearing to decide whether or not to uphold the impeachment. If the impeachment is upheld, the Judicial Board can also decide to bar Trinh from holding ASUCI office for a period of time.
According to both the ASUCI Constitution and the ASUCI by-laws, if an impeached Senator submits a written appeal to the President of the Senate within a week of their impeachment, then another vote will be held to determine whether or not to overturn the dismissal, requiring two-thirds majority of the Senators present.