Nearly half of the senate seats are now open, either through dismissal or resignation. Senator Marc Hinz, who was originally dismissed in Monday’s E&CR meeting, will reportedly be reinstated due to an error in paperwork. Two members of the executive committee, Cynthia Sartin and Erin Sexton were retained after being investigated for not completing six credit hours, yet Sexton has reportedly resigned of her own accord. Sarin claims that there is no connection between her resignation and the investigation. With the pending Hinz reinstatement, the number of open seats in the senate will move from eight to seven.
Senators Sahr Yambasu, Steven Hamilton, Raymond Brisson III, Bar Johnston and Carolyn Becker-Snell were all dismissed. Senators Jeremy Rosenbloom and Abigail Audette have resigned, and Senators Abi Mohamud and Santiago Mendoza were allowed to stay.
The recent rash of senator dismissals has in large part been due to a lack of attendance at student senate meetings.
According to many sources, getting senators to attend meetings is far from a new phenomenon. In fact, student body Vice President Emily Garrick recently said, “this year has been better than last year. We’ve had more quorums and better attendance as a whole.”
The importance of quorum
A quorum is reached when over half of the elected senators are in attendance at a meeting. If quorum is not met, no official action can take place. Because only one senate meeting is scheduled in an average week, persistent cancellations can bring the government organization to a grinding halt. Since the first week of November, quorum has been reached only twice, Nov. 28 and Jan. 16.
Senate attendance requirements
Senators are allowed to miss no more than 35 percent of the senate meetings with an excuse. All that is needed for an absence to be considered excused is prior notification to Garrick. Two unexcused absences are also grounds for dismissal.
In addition, all members of student government must be enrolled in and successfully complete six credit hours per term at Portland State.
The main players in senate investigation
Senate meetings are presided over by Senate President Emily Garrick. Garrick was responsible for compiling attendance records of truant senators, and for making suggestions on senator dismissals.
Sally Eck is the faculty advisor to student government. Since Eck has access to student records, she was responsible for investigating enrollment and academic records for all student government members. She submitted information on those senators not completing the proper number of classes, as well as members of the executive staff deficient in credit hours.
The Evaluation and Constitutional Review Committee (E&CR) is the judicial branch of student government. Its job, in this instance, is to take the information compiled by both Garrick and Eck, and to vote on each individual case. The committee is chaired by Paul Paris, and includes Elijah Michalowski, Amara Marino and Jane Lee. After receiving reports from Garrick and Eck, the E&CR met Monday to vote on who should be allowed to stay and who should be removed from the senate.
The bottom line
The lack of attendance at senate meetings has had two profound results: senate meetings being cancelled and the senate investigations which culminated in dismissals this past week.
So far this term, the senate has held only one meeting. At that meeting, Shane Jordan, a student senator, pushed hard to move a discussion on Sen. Gordon Smith from third to first on the agenda because he feared that half an hour into the meeting quorum would be lost due to senators leaving the meeting early. This was the only senate meeting to attain at least partial quorum since Nov. 28.
Garrick said the lack of quorum in the winter term “hasn’t put us completely off track, because we are still waiting for reports from other committees.”
As a result of the investigations by Eck and Garrick, their recommendations to the E&CR and the committee’s subsequent vote, there were eight seats open on the senate as of Monday.